When you’re taking the subway and the train arrives the second you step onto the platform, you might feel warm inside and wonder what you did to deserve this. It’s a sensation similar to what you feel when you find a curly fry mixed in with all your regular fries or buy a ticket to a raffle because you don’t want to seem cheap, then somehow win a trip to Lake Tahoe. If you’re looking for yet another way to experience this feeling, get some food at Khao Kang.
This counter-service spot in Elmhurst has a daily selection of around 10 different dishes, and you can get three with a side of rice for less than $15. It’s a great deal—and, once you realize how good everything is, you might feel undeserving. Are you being rewarded by the universe for never using your roommate’s bath products? Probably not. This place just happens to serve assertive, highly flavorful Thai food that isn’t as expensive as it should be.
When you walk inside, you’ll see all the dishes laid out in pans behind the counter. Some options are pretty much always available, like a sour fish curry that’ll make you sweat from your hairline and a chicken liver stir fry that has more personality than whoever you're currently dating. Depending on what the kitchen feels like making, you might also see breaded fish with big slices of eggplant, a mildly spicy tom yum soup, or some pad prik king with plenty of juicy, heavily-seasoned shrimp.
The space isn't very large, but it usually isn't too tough to grab a seat here. Stop by for a lunch with a few friends and try to claim the big table up front, or, if you’re by yourself, grab a stool along the wall, eat a quick meal, then get back to your regular schedule of work, laundry, and eating food that probably isn’t as good as the stuff at Khao Kang.
If you live in the area, this should be one of your go-to spots for a fast and easy meal. And if you don’t live in the area, you should still try to come here as often as you can. Khao Kang is an essential NYC dining destination, and a meal here costs less than off-peak ticket on Metro North. Don't take this place for granted.
The food here changes every day, but here are some things you might find.
Southern Sour Curry
When you order this, the person behind the counter might inform you that it’s spicy. And you should believe that person. But there’s plenty of free water in the cooler near the register, and we fully encourage you to order this tangy curry with fish and bamboo shoots.
Tai Pla Curry
This one’s a little milder than Southern Sour Curry, but it also has a bit more going on. It has a bunch of assorted vegetables as well as some little pieces of mackerel, and if we had to pick between the two curries, we’d choose this one. Although we sometimes get both.
Fried Garlic Pork
These fried chunks of pork will never be a bad choice. They’re covered in a sweet glaze, and you’ll want to fill your pockets with them or take some home and add them to your trail mix.
Ka Pao Moo
There’s a very good chance you’ll see this when you come here, and if you do, you should get a big scoop of it over your rice. It’s a bunch of ground pork mixed with chopped peppers and green beans, and it’s great when you want something a little less sweet than the fried garlic pork.
Kai Pa Lo
If you like sugar, you’ll appreciate this sweet-but-also-savory stew with big chunks of pork belly, tofu, and hard-boiled egg. But if you don’t, you should probably go with something else.
Pla Pad Cha
Breaded fish mixed with big pieces of eggplant. This is light, simple, and very good.