Last year I moved away from Suwanee Thai Cuisine, one of a handful of places worth eating at in central Nebraska, and there’s been a drunken noodles-shaped hole in my soul ever since.
The owner of Suwanee, a Thai native who named the restaurant after his wife, would take an annual trip back to Thailand every summer and come back with new inspiration for his dishes. I was always heartbroken when they would close temporarily, but I took comfort in knowing the food would be that much more delicious when I returned.
Alas, I am now a thousand miles away from said Thai cuisine castle, and to be honest with you, I was spoiled by my time at the tables of Suwanee. It’s turned me into a picky eater when it comes to Thai food, and I’ve had trouble finding options that match the freshness and ingenuity that I experienced in, of all places, small-town Nebraska.
Pad Thai, spring rolls, crispy silver bags, steamed dumplings, mango sticky rice, and drunken noodles have long been a comfort food staple and I expect nothing less than perfection. It’s unfair, I know.
So, you can probably understand my apprehension about stepping up to the Chang Thai Durango food truck at 11th Street Station for the first time. I was with a group of people who immediately scattered amongst the park looking to appease their appetites.
Chang Thai stands where Mariana’s Authentic Cuisine once stood – right at the entrance of the food truck park. Their menu is extensive and carries everything from cheese Rangoon to fried rice and tofu. You even have the option of choosing your spice levels – one being the mildest, with five being the hottest.
I was there for the drunken noodles. OK, and maybe the cheese Rangoon, and maybe the mango sticky rice, too.
It’d been so long since I’d had a Thai dish that hit the spot, but I was willing to give Chang Thai a chance.
The first thing I noticed when picking up my plate from the stand is how beautiful the dish was. The food was a fluid dance of eye-catching vegetables like bean sprouts and peppers, which were arranged delicately to look more like a work of art than lunch from a food truck. It was delightfully bright.
Both the drunken noodles and pad Thai, a dish ordered by a companion that I swiped bites of, were a perfect mix of crunchy vegetables and sleek noodles. The pad Thai had a surprising sweetness to it, while the drunken noodles were packed with intense flavors and textures.
In between bites of our noodle dishes, we also crammed in our side order of cheese Rangoon and mango sticky rice for dessert.
The cheese Rangoon was worthy of a dramatic chef’s kiss. They were big and bold and perfectly structured wontons. The creamy cheese was thick and filling, and I regretted offering to share them with the rest of the table.
It should be known that I am a huge sucker for mango sticky rice. The first time I experienced this dish I was getting lunch with a friend who ordered it for dessert. I had no idea what kind of food bliss awaited me so I rolled my eyes, disappointed that we weren’t choosing an ice cream dish. To my utter shock, the mango sticky rice far surpassed any dessert we could have ordered. It had been years since I had a proper bowl of mango sticky rice, and the one from Chang Thai instantly took me back to those first few bites from long ago. The sticky rice clung to the sweet, juicy mangoes in glorious matrimony. But if you want to get a hold of this dish, you’re going to have to get to the food truck park early. Every other time I’ve swung by Chang Thai, they’ve been out.
The best way to sum up Chang Thai is that it’s fresh. While I realize that’s a vague way to describe cuisine, it’s challenging to find something that tastes fresh, especially when it comes to exotic foods and flavors. But, thanks to restaurants like Chang Thai, Durango is overcoming that mountain, so to speak.