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Oklahoma City, OK
Panang 2 and Tana Thai are two Thai restaurants on North May Avenue in the Quail Springs area, and in my opinion they really could not offer more of a contrast and still be classified as Thai food. Panang is part of a “mini-chain” of four restaurants (No. 1 is in south OKC and the others are in Edmond and Moore). Tana Thai is a small family owned restaurant with more limited hours and seating, so I would say Panang is more upscale. Panang is also family owned, but its restaurants are larger with a more extensive menu (although Tana Thai covers all the basics). One of the biggest differences I have noticed is in the portion size–Panang gives what I consider to be very large portions compared to the “normal” Thai restaurant (such as Tana Thai).
The main dish that I think is better at Tana Thai is the pad thai. Within the two broad categories of Thai food (stir-fried and curry) there are good dishes at both restaurants but generally I think Tana Thai is better for stir-fried and Panang is better for curries. The curries at Panang do contain MSG, though, while Tana Thai does not use MSG (and the stir-fried dishes at Panang also appear to be MSG-free). Basil stir-fried at Panang, though, is one dish that was as good as any I have tried at other restaurants.
The prices of meals at both restaurants are about the same but Panang generally has larger quantities of food, particularly with the lunch combos served Monday through Friday. I do not want to get too much into the weeds in comparing these two restaurants, but all Thai restaurants seem to have certain dishes that are their specialties.
Panang’s multiple locations indicate that it has a loyal following, and I definitely understand the reason for this. It has a comfortable atmosphere even if you come during off hours (such as the middle of the afternoon), take out orders are reliable, and Thai food is one of my favorites. The prices are reasonable for the quantity served, and I have never gone away hungry from any of their meals.
After eating the panang curry I made a note that it was easy on the stomach (this must have been when I was having some digestion problems). This is not surprising, though, because Thai is one of my comfort foods.
In 2021 I read on Panang’s web site that they now have a “Street Food” restaurant next door to the south OKC location with its own menu that introduces a totally different concept of Thai food to the city. Of course I am hopeful to try it out but I have not done so yet.
Panang has lunch combo meals Monday through Friday until 2:00 P.M. which give you a lot of food for prices that are a good deal lower than most of the dinner items. The choices change daily, but one I thought was very good was the Basil Chicken Stir-Fried served on Wednesday (they also have basil pork on Monday and basil beef on Friday).
The lunch combos come with four items, but there is large flexibility in choosing these items (or you can get a double portion of any item in lieu of one of the other three). The lunch in the above photo came with rice, spring roll, and pad thai, along with what I thought was a generous portion of basil chicken.
I am not a huge fan of the spring roll, and customers are allowed to substitute something else for it, but I think it goes well on the lunch combination plate.
I had heard that the Green Curry at Panang was one of the best items, so I ordered this lunch combo when I came on a day that the green curry was available (my records show that it was a Thursday). I ordered it with a double portion of Pad Thai (the curry was very good but I think it would probably be better to skip the pad thai or just get a single portion of it).
On a Tuesday lunch combo I got a combination of Ginger Pork Stir-Fried and Red Curry, along with pad thai and a spring roll. The ginger pork had a nice flavor with a subtle amount of ginger, but I thought the meat was a little tough. I thought the red curry was really the best item on the plate because of the flavor. It was not as spicy as the green curry, but the spice level was acceptable to me.
The Friday lunch combo gives you the most choices, and I think some of the best ones. One I particularly liked was the Evil Jungle Curry which is made with minced chicken, and has both red and green peppers. It was spicier than other curries I have had on the lunch combos, but there is a choice of the green curry which I think is less spicy. On Friday there are four choices for the stir-fried dish, and I thought the Eggplant Tofu Stir-Fried had a good flavor and a good spice level (there are less spicy alternatives on the combo if you want them). The eggplant dish was a little sweet, but not too much.
The Pad Thai, which comes on all lunch combos unless you get a substitute such as rice or a double portion of something else, is the one item that I think might be too much on the sweet side. To me this is not a big issue when it is a side dish on a larger plate.
Stir Fried Dishes
The regular menu has a large selection of single items, and it helped to highlight the good and bad points of each one. The Ginger Stir-Fried dish is the one item I have tried that I think is notably better than its counterpart at Tana Thai. I thought the blend of flavors was very good, and I appreciated the fact that Panang serves large portions on its dinner menu (at lunch it is only available on the Tuesday combo as ginger pork). Dinner offers a choice of different meats or tofu, and I thought the large amount of vegetables made it better than many dishes served at other restaurants.
Another good dish is the Spicy Stir-Fried (this one was also with tofu). This was made with a curry paste (made without coconut milk) which possibly makes it more flavorful and less sweet than the regular curries. There was a good basil flavor to the dish, and the green beans were a very good touch.
To me the Sweet and Sour Stir-Fried was pretty much devoid of Thai flavors, and would not be one of my first choices for ordering, but the chicken and vegetables were good.
The Basil Stir-Fried may get my vote as the best dish at Panang. It is made with fresh basil leaves, onions, chili, bell peppers, and green beans. The default spice level is about two out of five (this was enough that I can order it from the menu without worrying that it would be too spicy if I try to specify a higher number). There is no MSG in the dish, and the flavor was excellent.
The Panang Curry was especially good because of the lime leaves, and I would recommend this dish in spite of its sweetness and the fact that it has MSG (which did not seem to be in a very great amount).
The Green Curry (shown in a lunch combo photo) is often cited by on-line reviews as the restaurant’s best dish, and I would also say it is a good one (with its main strength being that the default version is spicier than the red).
I thought the Red Curry with tofu was as flavorful as the green, although not as spicy.
The Evil Jungle Curry is one that I think is on par with the Panang curry, meaning that it is my co-favorite.
The Pineapple Fried Rice seemed to be fairly devoid of flavor, although it can be made better by adding your own chiles from the condiment bar.
My main problem with the Thai Tea here is the price. I definitely think it goes well with the food here, though, and is something I like to order in spite of the price (some other Thai restaurants have high prices for it as well).
This photo also shows the Thai condiments which are available, and which I think have turned some mediocre dishes I have been served into good ones (a good thing to keep in mind since the condiments are free).
The spice level is higher than at other restaurants, so usually two stars are enough for me (and several dishes I have tried had a default level of 2). A waiter at Panang told me, though, that pad thai and fried rice use dried chiles which have a lower heat level than on the other dishes.
I know that the curries have MSG and I believe stir-fried dishes do not. I believe the MSG is used in small quantities, though.
Some of the food here has been very sweet, and this is the main reason they did not make it to my list of besst items (although some are for other reasons). The ginger stir-fried and basil stir-fried had a flavor that I thought was very good, though. The lime leaves make the panang curry special in spite of its sweetness. The evil jungle curry seemed to be less sweet than the others but maybe it was just a sweet curry balanced with other flavors to make it good.
Hours: Open Daily
Smoking: No smoking
Most Recent Visit: Feb. 28, 2020
Number of Visits: 9
Best Items: Ginger Stir Fried, Basil Stir Fried, Panang Curry, Evil Jungle Curry
Asian Food Details
|Evil Jungle Curry|
|Pineapple Fried Rice|
|Sweet and Sour Stir-Fried|
Menu (Aug. 2017):