Thai food is inherently brightly colored, and its flavors are as bright and fresh as they look.
Such is the case with the curry dishes in the bright orange restaurant Thai Curry Kitchen off 25th Street in Ogden.
Thai Curry Kitchen has the atmosphere that both comforts novice taste buds anxiously venturing into a new, aromatic cuisine and attracts those that fell in love many times before and are looking to satisfy that reoccurring curry craving.
For those who haven’t visited, Thai Curry Kitchen is the quick-serve response to Thai food — while most Thai restaurants are full-service sit-down experiences with menus that greatly vary in entrees and offerings.
“Thailand is the street food capital of the world because you can’t go 5 feet without a vendor selling something,” owner Steve Ballard said. “It’s all about the street food. But in America, they are sit-down restaurants with 100 items on their menus ... and they offer the entirety of (Thai) cuisine in one location. But in Thailand, you eat a green papaya salad here or a curry shop that offers two curries there or another place that offers satay. We’re not going to offer all Thai cuisine. We decided to specialize in curries.”
Thai Curry Kitchen is quick, it’s definitely fresh, and it’s just as tasty on the go as it is sitting down inside the restaurant. In December, it will be celebrating its five-year anniversary in Ogden.
In total, there are nine regular curries diners can choose from on the menu, as well as added proteins: chicken, beef, tofu or (for a small extra charge) shrimp. The most well-known Thai curries are likely green, yellow and massaman. Thai Curry Kitchen’s menu is generous in the fact that if your heat tolerance varies (as it does in America), each curry includes a note of how spicy a Utahn can expect it taste.
(In reality, if we all took a group tour trip to Thailand, our sensitive Utah taste buds would likely fill our mouths with their own tears from the delicious and impossible heat the food generates there.)
One especially chilly afternoon recently, several of us visited for lunch and ordered a selection of its curries, mainly: Green Curry, Yellow Curry and The Spicy Steve.
The Spicy Steve was an outside-the-box decision and stood out as a favorite. It’s a bit more spicy (as its name warns) and features ginger, mixed bell peppers and red potatoes. Other unique menu entrees included curries named Red Jungle Curry, Papuan Curry and White Curry.
Spicy Steve, a customer favorite according to Ballard, is made of the White Curry base and Sriracha.
“In Thailand they have Tom Kha soup, and we took it and made it into a curry,” he said. “It’s super mild and has slivered ginger; I love it. It’s been pretty popular (and good for people afraid of spice and flavor) and then we thought we should make a Sriracha-based curry because people love Sriracha, too. So we took the White and added Sriracha to it, which created an orange-pink color. Then, we tried to figure out a name for it and my manager made it and ran it as a special when I was out of town ‘introducing our new curry, the Spicy Steve,’ and he named it after me ... and it stuck.”
The name rolls off the tongue as easy as it is to consume the whole bowl.
Outside of curry rice bowls, there are three salads on the menu that have spun off the curries, and there are two different appetizers: Spring Rolls and Gyoza. The Spring Rolls are incredibly fresh and packed full of kale, carrots, peppers, cabbage, bean sprouts and a side of peanut dressing for dipping. The peanut dressing is key to this healthy appetizer, even if it’s a dipping sauce on the side. The Gyoza, containing chicken and vegetables, are what you’d expect of a standard pot sticker at many an Asian-focused restaurant.
Mango Sticky Rice is a staple dessert in Thai cuisine and not to be underestimated. The sticky carbs and fruit are a combo that will likely endure to celestial heaven. Thai Curry Kitchen’s take on the dessert features cubed fresh mango atop a heaping bowl of sweet sticky rice; you might not eat all of the rice but it’s delicious nonetheless.
In fact, you should likely savor the rice.
According to Ballard, Thai food and its history is all about the rice. It is the second largest exporter of rice in the world and known for its jasmine rice production.
“When you’re eating rice all the time, you have to add flavor,” Ballard said. “The simple or most basic curries are just a way to spice up the rice. In America, we see curry as the focus and rice is the add-on. It’s actually the opposite; rice is the meal and curry flavors it.”
For those interested in delving deeper into Thai cooking, rice and its flavors, classes are held in the fall and winters at Thai Curry Kitchen for $16 per person and typically sell out within 24 hours of being posted, Ballard said. Information about events, as well as its Curry Cart food truck, can be found on its social media accounts.