Steve's Gastronomic Home Page

True Thai Restaurant (Closed)

4309 Fred Wilson Ave.
El Paso, TX

True Thai Restaurant

This seems to be the most authentic Thai restaurant in El Paso (thus the name "True Thai," I suppose). True Thai is small and sometimes requires a wait to get a table, but it is always friendly and courteous.

It has taken some experimentation to find some of the more interesting plates. This has been made more complicated by the fact that the cooks have changed a couple of times, and now it seems I have to try everything over again to write accurate descriptions of them. My list of "favorites" has changed with each chef, but the overall quality has stayed fairly consistent.

Phad Thai
Phad Thai at True Thai with a tomato sauce

At first I joined the masses of people largely uninitiated to Thai food by regularly ordering the Phad Thai, a noodle dish that I usually ordered with tofu. Although the lime, sugar, peanuts, and Thai chiles served as condiments on the table made it enjoyable, I found the noodles to be rather sticky and gooey (how do you like my technical descriptions of Thai food?). The flavor was good, though, and it helped solidify Thai food as one of my favorite cuisines.

At present the phad thai is served with a tomato sauce that I do not find as enjoyable as the seemingly more complex sauce that was served before. The noodles are probably better now, but the problem in making the comparison is that I was formerly only interested in eating the food, and not in describing it for a review.

I believe the phad thai with tomato sauce is actually a northern Thailand Isan style version of the dish as I discovered when one of the former chefs used to make it this way on special request. I do not find the current version as flavorful, and I do not know why. The current version is not as spicy, but I believe there were other ingredients formerly included that are now missing. I cannot make any complaints about the current dish other than the fact that I remember it being better in the past.

The curry dishes have consistently been the best in El Paso. They started out being thin and runny, being just slightly better than at the other restaurants. I have been pretty impressed, though, by the way the current chef has made the curry thicker with a more vibrant flavor. It is now coming close to some of the better curries I have ever had.

Phad Prik King
Phad Prik King is one of the best curry dishes

Phad Prik King has been one of the better curry dishes, consisting of a red curry served with green beans. I have tried several meats with it, with shrimp being the best. The chicken did not have a flavor that was quite as enticing as it should be. Probably my second choice would be with vegetables or tofu.

The current version of phad prik king, though, has been modified to include coconut milk. This is not the way I have had it at other restaurants, and I believe is not the traditional way the dish should be done (otherwise it is the same as Panang curry or other types of red curry dishes). The curry was very good with the coconut milk, but I do not know whether to be happy about the change or complain that they are no longer making traditional phad prik king. I cannot rate this dish as five stars, though, if it is not prepared the way I find it at every other Thai restaurant.

The Phad King (ginger) has a delicious sauce, but the vegetables have been disappointing. The vegetables usually consist of a lot of bell peppers and other crunchy things that I do not like as much as the more traditional green vegetables. More than anything, I just have not found the dish to be filling enough when I order the vegetable version. It seems that most of my disappointment at True Thai is with the meat and vegetables rather than the sauces.

Seafood Tom Yum
Seafood Tom Yum with large pieces of galanga and other ingredients floating around

One of the best items has been Tom Yum. It consists of a good amount of vegetables in a soup broth with curry paste and a generous amount of lime (a choice of meat is also available). The lemongrass and galanga provide just about everything that makes this dish good (there is even a jar of Thai peppers and fish sauce on the table that can be added).

Other types of soup with seaffod have been very good, but I do not remember what they were called on the menu.

So far I have found that just about everything except noodle dishes better with a side order of rice. It costs extra, though.

The Thai Tea is one of the best I have found at any Thai restaurant, and has never been disappointing on the numerous times I have ordered it.

One problem I have found at True Thai has been the lack of some items I usually find at other Thai restaurants. Some of the items that are served occasionally lack some of the ingredients that are normally included in the dish. (I think both of these are symptoms of El Paso's isolation from a large Asian population and a lack of Asian super markets). I believe the restaurant is delivering more authentic Thai food than can be found in other establishments around the borderland, and I always enjoy the items I order.

I know there are a lot of items on the menu I have yet to try, so I would not say the restaurant does not have enough from which to choose.

Probably my biggest gripe with True Thai is that I do not think either the chicken or tofu are as good as they should be. I have tried some beef dishes that were not very exciting, but were all right. Probably the only items I would recommend here are ones made with seafood or vegetables, and even the vegetables have left me disappointed on occasion. Shrimp usually seems to be the best meat choice on most dishes.

The restaurant is small with about eight tables, and I don't care much for the plastic patio chairs that are used. While the food is not expensive, an order of spring rolls or soup will push the price up so that it becomes one of the higher priced Asian restaurants in the city. Rice is extra and Thai tea is more expensive than the regular tea.



Cuisine: Thai
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: Yes
Tea: Jasmine (bags)
Smoking: No Smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit
Apr. 17, 2009

Number of Visits: 10+

Best Items
Tom Yum, Phad Prik King, Thai Iced Tea

Special Ratings
Pad Thai:
Tom Yum:
Phad Prik King:
Phad King:
Thai Tea: