Around the World in Houston: Discover Thailand

AsiaFest | Photo courtesy of Asia Society Texas Center

With a labyrinth of cultures represented in every nook and cranny of town, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America. To celebrate this world-class melting pot, we’ll be exploring a new region of the globe through a Houston lens each week, from annual festivals and museums to restaurants and cultural experiences. Join the journey with our Around the World in Houston series.

From annual celebrations of Thai culture to a bevy of eateries lining the city and dishing out authentic, “Thai hot” eats, there are plenty of excellent ways to unearth a taste of Thailand in Houston.

Annual Festivals & Cultural Events

  • Thai New Year – Local eateries Songkran Thai Kitchen and Songkran Thai Grill put on an annual celebration for Songkran, the traditional water festival that marks the beginning of the Thai New Year.
  • Asia Fest  Asia Society’s annual Asia Fest celebrates Asian Pacific American heritage through family-friendly and creative activities, community performances, exciting artwork and vendors, and plenty of tasty fusion cuisine.

Museums & Cultural Organizations

  • Asia Society Texas Center – The Asia Society Texas Center focuses on enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach. Look out for film festivals, family days, student programs, art exhibits, and markets.
  • Asian Pacific American Heritage Association – Formed in 1992 and serving the Greater Houston area and beyond, this heritage association strives to promote awareness and increase understanding of the Asian/Pacific American culture and its diversity through education and celebration. The group focuses on May, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and continues with programs, events, and educational opportunities throughout the year.
  • Arts of Asia at Museum of Fine Arts Houston – The Museum’s collections of Asian art span nearly five millennia and encompass the cultures of China, the Himalayas, India, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia, including Thailand.

Thai Food & Drink

Restaurants & Sweets

  • Asia Market Thai Restaurant – Not to be confused with Asia Market Thai Lao Food (more on that later), this eatery moved to its new location on Fulton. Though it has new digs, fans can get the same specialties straight from Thailand, now alongside Thai beers, local craft beers, wine, and table service. Enjoy a mosaic of curries, Thai and Laos style som tum (green papaya salad), signature kee mao (drunken noodles), and new dishes like moo ping (bbq pork).
  • Aim Thai – This Montgomery spot offers authentic Thai flavors on the cheap. Get fried fish drizzled with sweet, sour, and spicy sauce, hot and sour tom yum soup, and chicken pad thai; then finish with some mango and sweet sticky rice.
  • Class 502 – Get Thai-style rolled ice cream flavored with mango, green tea, and berries at this Chinatown teahouse and ice cream parlor.
  • Kanomwan – This End End spot offers traditional Thai specialties in a modest setting (bonus points: it’s BYOB). Bring friends and dig into beef pad panang with Thai curry and coconut milk, spicy tom yum soup with red snapper, and chili-kissed chicken and pork larb.
  • Khun Kay Thai Cafe – In Montrose, this fan-favorite offers spice levels from 1 (mild) to 5 (hot, hot hot). But if you want your dishes “Thai hot,” let them know you mean business.
  • Morningside Thai – This local gem offers two locations, one on Braeswood and one Downtown. Start with shrimp rolls and Thai fried toast before moving on to Thai red curry, stir-fried noodles, and lemongrass chicken.
  • Nara Express – Don’t be fooled by its location at a Texaco gas station, this Midtown haunt has a cult following for a reason. Feast on Thai shumai, eggplant basil, pad thai and spicy fried catfish with prik khing curry. The eatery also has a location in Baytown.
  • Nidda Thai – One of Houston’s o.g. Thai spot sits in Lower Westheimer, offering wallet-friendly lunch specials, plus fan favorites like panang curry, drunken noodle, tiger cry, and Thai bbq chicken.
  • Rim Tanon – Modern Thai street food is the name of the game, here. That means you’re grubbing on crispy fried chicken wings in house garlic sauce, Thai fried rice packed with squid, shrimp, mussel and spices, pumpkin red curry, and Thai-style barbecue pork.
  • Songkran Thai Kitchen / Songkran Thai Grill – Owner and chef Junnajet “Jett” Hurapan is a native of Bangkok, Thailand. As such, Jett celebrates the robust flavors of traditional Thai cuisine, kissing dishes with garlic, shrimp paste, Thai chilies, lemongrass, and galangal to create a sophisticated, subtle elegance. Hit the restaurant to indulge in things like pu krob (crispy soft shell crab with angry chili glaze), and pad ga pow (wok-fried wagyu with Thai chili basil sauce); or check out the grill for offerings including spicy chicken larb, som tum, and pad kee mao.
  • Thai Cottage – With locations all over town, including but not limited to Bellaire, Greenway, Pearland, and the Woodlands, Thai Cottage is both easily accessible and totally satisfying. Dig into traditional curries, noodles and rice, and finish with deep-fried ice cream or sweet rice and Thai custard.
  • Thai Gourmet – Keeping Houstonians well fed for over 20 years, this family-owned Thai kitchen dishes out all the favorites, from addicting crispy rice with ground chicken, garlic and red onions in coconut sauce to Thai hot noodles and red curry duck.
  • Thai Jasmine – This fan-favorite BYOB brings fresh Thai flavors to Kingspoint. House specialties include honey roasted crispy half duck, golden noodles, and fried fish filet in spicy garlic sauce.
  • Vieng Thai This Long Point haunt balances the symphony of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors of traditional Thai fare, with an emphasis on the spice. Get Northeast Thai-style sausages and pork larb, fish cakes and fiery curries, and whole-fried tilapia smothered with triple flavored sauce.

Grocery Stores 

  • Asia Market Thai Lao Food – This tiny mom-and-pop is one of Houston’s many jewels, offering a restaurant and convenience store in one. Peruse its solid selection of Thai, Lao, and other Southeast Asian items, including imported sauces and spices, sacks of rice and varieties of teas, scratchmade Thai desserts and hard to find items like galangal root, kaffir lime, and pandan leaves. The kitchen portion offers everything from green papaya salad to Isaan-style Northern Thai sausage.
  • 99 Ranch Market – Hit any of the three Houston-area locations of this Asian grocery to shop for extensive varieties of rice, noodles, spices, curry pastes, fresh produce, meats and seafood, and special finds like Thai coconuts and ice cream; and check out the food court, which slings authentic eats from Thailand, China, Korea, Japan and more.
  • Super H-Mart – This bustling food emporium specializes in Korean fare, but you’ll also find a wonderland of ingredients that span Asian cuisines. Hit it to find fresh fruits and vegetables; live, fresh, and frozen seafood and quality meats; imported snacks, candies, sauces, and spices; varietals of noodles and rice; and inhouse baked goods. Don’t miss the food court options if you’re hungry.
  • Hong Kong Food Market – This colossal market in Chinatown’s Hong Kong City Mall covers the continent of Asia, offering tastes of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand, of course.
  • Viet Hoa International Foods – Come here for hard-to-score Asian ingredients, plus a killer prepared foods section and some Thai pastries, to boot.

Classes, Education Centers, Groups & Meet-Ups

  • Thai Student Association – This open network brings together a community of Thai Students around Houston through involvements in different activities (community service, Tri-City Game).
  • Houston Muay Thai – Houston Muay Thai is your home for authentic Muay Thai boxing, offering heart pumping fitness kickboxing and Thai boxing programs.
  • Muay Thai Alliance of Texas – This Houston-based organization was created with the goal of preserving the art and sport of Muay Thai in the state of Texas. Look out for events, including youth programs, talent searches, instructor and master assemblies and more.
  • Wat Buddhavas  This Buddhist Temple on Spindle holds regular services in Thai and English and offers meditation classes every Sunday. Other programs include Sunday schools for children to learn how to read, write, and speak Thai, Thai classical dance classes, and lessons in Muay Thai fighting-style.
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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .