The spicy-sweet-sour-salty cuisine of Thailand has never been more popular. Western diners and restaurateurs alike love the balance of fresh herbs, smooth coconut milk, salty fish sauce and hot chilies. Fresh ingredients make for clean and bright flavors, says Norrawit Jeenwong Milburn, chef and co-owner at Jeenwong Thai Cuisine. “We go to the market every morning and handpick beef, chicken, vegetables,” he says. Dishes tend to vary slightly by region, but a few key ingredients tend to pop up. Coconut milk, lemon grass, chilies, garlic and basil are blended in lots of dishes. That harmony is the key to great Thai food.
For years, Bangkok House (104 N. Union St., Wilmington, 654-8555) has been the flagholder of Delaware Thai cuisine, and with good reason. Owner Tom Wechkul adheres to the tennets of great Thai food from this low-key Union Street eatery, with dishes like Panang with coconut milk, red curry paste and basil. Wash it down with a Singha beer and get ready for the sublime duck with basil sauce. Consider ordering to-go to avoid the occasional long wait.
Inside the bustling Wilmington Riverfront Market, Jeenwong Thai Cuisine (200 Water St., Wilmington, 655-5140) is the place where businessmen get their Thai on. “All of our Thai food is our own family’s style,” says chef and co-owner Norrawit Jeenwong Milburn. “You’re not going to find another egg roll like ours.” Jeenwong uses special imported Thai ginger to flavor the egg rolls, then double cooks the tasty bundles to remove the fat and add the flavor. The corporate crowd loves the curry, but for transcendent Thai greatness, try the Ba Mea Lad Nar, stir-fried beef, shrimp and chicken with Thai-style garlic brown sauce poured over egg noodles.
A favorite spot for locals, Seaside Thai Cuisine (19 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9525) is a casual answer to many of Rehoboth’s high-end ethnic restaurants. The interior is colorful, but laid-back. The menu is traditional and reasonably priced. But the real highlights here are signature “seaside grillers” that pair tender grilled meat and seafood with fresh steamed veggies. One standout takes fresh, grilled Atlantic salmon and adds a few simple accompaniments—garlic, black pepper and teriyaki sauce.
Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine (275 Wilmington Pike, Chadds Ford, Pa., 610-358-4015) is the newest entry in Delaware’s Thai Rolodex. (OK, so it’s just over the Pennsylvania line in Glen Mills). But it’s already made an impact on Delaware diners. The cool and sophisticated atmosphere—with white candles and matching orchids—sets the stage for razor-sharp interpretations of Thai classics. Soups and curries laced with coconut milk are menu standouts, as is the crispy duck.
Bright and colorful parasols dangle from the ceiling and 80-year-old tapestries decorate the walls of Tasti Thai Restaurant (287 Christiana Road, New Castle, 322-1306), an unassuming Thai eatery—hidden in plain sight in a strip mall on Del. 273. It’s worth discovering. Owner Sung Falk has assembled a menu that’s fresh and diverse, with favorites like spicy, crispy softshell crab, three-flavor chicken topped with crisp basil leaves, roasted duck curry accented with tomatoes and pineapples, and refreshing papaya salad. The restaurant imports herbs from Thailand and uses fresh veggies like broccoli, snow peas and Thai eggplants called makua.