Thai cuisine continues to grow in popularity. With healthy ingredients, aromatic flavors and spices that tingle the taste buds, it’s no wonder that it consistently ranks among the top 10 favorites in polls. For me, the cuisine is among my top five, so I really have no excuse for not visiting Bangkok Wok until just last week.
I must say that I was surprised when I learned how long the restaurant has been serving the community. It’s a tough business, particularly for BYOBs, many of which have difficulty standing the test of time. Bangkok Wok took a gamble before Thai cuisine’s popularity exploded, and it turned out that they were onto something. The family-owned business has been in operation for more than 20 years now, and is located at 125 Gateway Drive, Mechanicsburg.
Business was brisk when we arrived on Friday night around the dinner hour, and the first thing that I noticed upon entering the establishment was a bench decorated with about a half-dozen eye-catching cushions embellished with color sequins depicting beautiful hummingbirds. I stopped to admire them before a hostess escorted us to a nearby booth.
The low-lit, zen-like atmosphere features attractive wall hangings, twinkling lights, plenty of greenery and colorful fish happily swimming around in a large, saltwater aquarium. Umbrellas in a variety of hues hang upside down near sequined wall hangings and attractive awnings crafted from wood and bamboo line the walls.
In an era where restaurants are downsizing their dinner menus, Bangkok Wok continues to do what works for them. The tome of a menu offers scores of dishes and spans 12 pages.
Listings are divided into appetizers, soup, beef, poultry, pork, seafood, curries, rice, noodles and vegetarian dishes, and each category contains at least 10 options.
Rather than enumerate all the dishes here, I recommend you visit their website to take a look for yourself, keeping in mind that prices have changed a bit recently.
If you’re a fan of curry, you can pair meat, vegetables or seafood with red or yellow curry. If you’re really adventurous, you can order the green curry, touted as the hottest curry they serve. I do understand, however, that they will tweak the level of spice to individual specifications upon request.
Sweet and sour dishes are offered with a choice of protein options like pork, chicken and seafood, and popular noodle dishes like Pad Thai are also available.
After a bit of dithering, we settled on a shrimp summer roll ($3.95) to share as an appetizer to buy us more time to peruse the menu. The summer roll didn’t take long to arrive and featured shrimp, herbs and vegetable “matchsticks.” The light bite was a nice prelude to the entrees to come, and the peanut sauce served on the side was a bit sweeter than others I’ve tried elsewhere.
My dining companion finally narrowed down his choice to “chicken with garlic and white pepper sauce,” which was described on the menu as “tender slices of chicken stir fried with spicy, white pepper and crispy garlic on a bed of fresh chopped cabbage.” ($15.95).
Because coconut milk makes everything better, I chose the “Kang Kai” curry with beef ($15.95).
The wait staff was attentive and pleasant, and the restaurant well-staffed, so dishes emerged from the kitchen at a rapid pace. Our entrees hit the table within just a few minutes.
The white pepper chicken dish arrived on a platter big enough to feed two and was served with a pyramid of white rice. I decided to help myself to a taste and then went back in for more. The savory cabbage was a nice juxtaposition to the semi-sweet brown sauce, and the mild pepper flavor tied it all together quite nicely.
I enjoyed my flavorful Kang Kai curry with beef, ordering it with brown rice that I added to absorb the delicious broth. The savory beef complemented the heat of the spicy finger hot peppers, which were tamed a bit by the sweetness of the coconut milk. The fresh Thai basil added a hint of anise for an extra dimension of flavor that had me craving more.
In the end, there was too much food to finish, so ordering dessert was out of the question. The restaurant likely counts on that because that particular section of the menu is considerably smaller, listing fried bananas with crushed peanuts and Thai tapioca peals with coconut milk—because, as I mentioned before, everything is better with coconut milk.
If you find yourself craving Thai cuisine, Bangkok Wok is the place to visit. Judging by its longevity, I think it’s safe to say that many others likely agree.
Next Up: Lunch at Red Sky Café in Camp Hill