The only people who don’t like Thai food are people who have not had Thai food.
“I’ve had Thai food and I don’t like it,” says some imaginary reader in my head who is constantly undercutting me. “So shut up. You’re ugly.”
Wow. Harsh. Okay, fine, maybe some people have had Thai food and don’t like it, but I contend that those people are probably my parents and they don’t like eating anything with spices. The vast majority of people love Thai food so much that our brains have evolved a mechanism to make us forget about how good Thai food is.
Take my friends Julie and Kevin, who are totally real people and I’m tired of you insinuating that I don’t have any friends: When I said, “Let’s get Thai food,” Julie said, “Oh my god, yes. We haven’t had Thai food in forever.”
They love Thai food. They were so excited about Thai food. But it had been YEARS since they’d had it. What kind of insanity is that? Especially when they live so close to Panang 2.
Oklahoma City is flush with good Thai food (and even some Laotian food — looking at you Four J’s Diner), but Panang has been successful enough to expand to three locations.
There’s Panang (9022 S. Pennsylvania Ave.), Panang 2 (14101 N. May Ave.) and...Panang 5 (3325 S. Boulevard St., in Edmond). Why skip from 2 to 5? I don’t know. We may never know. (Or I’ll just ask them and update it here later.)
I say, if you’re not going to over-order Thai food, then don’t bother. I’ve never eaten a little Thai food and thought, “That’s enough.”
Sweet and savory and light and filling and just so good that you stuff yourself full and then eat a little more after that.
Which means you need appetizers. To truly over-order, you need food before your food arrives. And, in classic Elwell fashion, I made sure we got two appetizers.
Chicken sate ($7.99) are a must, but I’ve been hurt so many times. Bad chicken sate run rampant. Dry and stringy and flavorless. It seems like they’d be easy to make, right? Run a skewer through some chicken and grill it. But so many places get it wrong.
Not a problem at Panang 2. I’m not sure if it’s marinated for hours or brined, but this chicken is tender and moist. The accompanying peanut sauce is excellent — so good that Kevin wanted to eat it with a spoon — but the chicken is delicious on its own. Maybe the best sate I’ve had.
I also wanted to try “angel wings,” because how can you not gnaw on a piece of a seraphim when you’re given the chance?
Turns out the angel wings ($7.99) are actually chicken wings that are deboned and then stuffed with more chicken and breaded and fried. Good luck getting people to stuff a deboned angel wing with more angel meat.
These were kind of ridiculous. They shouldn’t work nearly so well as they do, but with the sweet dipping sauce and the crispy crust, they were just wonderful. One warning: toward the end, you might find a little bone. Watch out for that.
Speaking of bits of inedible material, there’s a chance you’ll find some in the crab meat fried rice ($13.99). That would normally be a red flag, but there’s SO MUCH crab in this fried rice that finding a bit of shell isn’t all that disturbing. A single crab claw full of meat in your rice and, yeah, I’d be upset if there was shell included.
But this was a lot of crab and, just based on the ratio of shell to meat in a normal crab, I feel like this was an acceptable amount. Would I like no shell? Of course. But for the a ton of mild crab sweetness paired with a lovely mound of gorgeous fried rice, I’ll take it.
Please refrain from drowning this in soy sauce, at least until you’ve had a few bites. I like soy sauce in fried rice as much as anybody, but too much will completely blow out the flavor of the crab.
Kevin ordered pad thai ($9.99) because it’s technically against the law for a Thai restaurant to serve a table of three or more a meal without one of the entrees being pad thai. DO NOT BOTHER LOOKING FOR THE LEGAL STATUTES. It’s the law and you shouldn’t need proof when it feels so much like the truth.
Panang 2 was actually out of the pad thai noodles, so they substituted a slightly thicker noodle for the dish. And had that been the only problem, it would be fine. But the sauce was overly sweet with a weird aftertaste. It really threw the whole dish out of whack.
I hope this was a one-off issue, but of all the food we had that night, the pad thai was the one dish no one was eager to take home.
The same was not true for the pad see-yew ($9.99). This is one of my all-time favorite Thai dishes. I love the giant flat noodles. They’re like chewy sponges soaking up all the sauce. I got it with pork, which was stir-fried with egg, broccoli, carrots and soy sauce into a rich, slightly sticky dish of pure satisfaction.
If you haven’t had pad see-yew before, give it a try. I think it’s an incredibly delicious addition to Thai food’s already irresistible line-up. The pork was nice and tender, too — a great base for all of that salty soy sauce.
But if there’s one dish you must get at Panang 2, it’s Evil Jungle Chicken Curry ($11.50).
Massaman curry is wonderful. Green curry and red curry are both delightful. Panang curry is the bomb.
But Evil Jungle Chicken Curry combines coconut milk, onions and bell peppers with minced chicken in a frothy, sweet and spicy stew that has me ready to move to the nearest evil jungle. Evil chimps? Evil snakes? Whatever. So long as there are some evil chickens around so I can put them in my curry.
The rice sops up all of this flavor and creates an incredibly filling and satisfying dish. It’s not even all that spicy, so if you want to bring the heat, be sure to ask for it.
And ask for some to-go boxes, while you’re at it, because there’s no way you’re going to finish all of this food. It’ll feed you for another day or two at least, which is just enough time for you to ask some other friends if they’d like to go get Thai food.
“Thai food? YES! We haven’t had Thai food in forever!”
It’s the circle of life.