Former UT technician secures own Thai food truck

Stephen Acevedo

It’s no secret that Austin has a lot of love for Thai food, but there’s nothing like the real deal. Songkun Phayungpong, owner of the new Thai-Licious food truck, has taken it upon himself to insert some authenticity into Austin’s Thai food game.   

“A lot of Thai restaurants around here are very good, but I want to bring my own experiences and authentic recipes to Austin,” Phayungpong said. “I want to show people what real Thai food is like.”

Phayungpong said his menu and recipes are a result of a lifetime of enjoying the best food Thailand has to offer, from his own mother’s kitchen to some of the country’s most renowned restaurants. After working at UT as a security technician, he decided it was time to pursue his true passion — cooking.

“This is something that I’ve always had a very true love for,” Phayungpong said. “Some places in Austin charge a lot more than they should, so I wanted to give people good food for a
good price.”

Phayungpong’s daughter Mattana Phayungpong, who helps run the food truck, said the authenticity of the food at Thai-Licious comes mostly from the quality of the ingredients, especially the spicy chili.

“A lot of Thai restaurants in America offer a spicy level,” Mattana Phayungpong said. “Authentic Thai is all about the freshness in all the ingredients. We don’t want to force the chili to be any less spicy.”

Although Songkun Phayungpong has been running the truck for only two months, he said his love for the culinary arts has prepared him to run a successful business.

“I put my heart in there when I’m cooking,” Songkun Phayungpong said. “I feel good when I cook for people. Some people are not happy to cook, but I feel really happy to offer people the best
food possible.”

The menu at Thai-Licious is fairly limited, which allows Songkun Phayungpong to pay close attention to detail in each dish. A high point of the menu, as well as Songkun Phayungpong’s specialty, are the heaven ribs, which are essentially a small rack of babyback ribs slow cooked and then deep fried in a secret mixture of batter and seasoning.

It is a simple dish, but it delivers a wonderfully savory flavor. The tomato-based sauce poured generously over the ribs blends exceptionally well with Songkun Phayungpong’s custom mix of seasonings. The ribs aren’t very spicy on their own, but once the ground chili flakes are added, it becomes immediately clear why Thai-Licious does not offer varying levels of spiciness. Just a small dash of the Thai chili will have noses running in the blink of an eye.

Another notable menu item are the Thai wings, which are coated in a thick layer of dry seasoning, fried and layered again with a bit of sweet and spicy glaze. The wings are sweet upon the initial bite, but after a few seconds, a satisfying little spice settles into the taste buds and leaves a slight tingle on the lips before disappearing. It’s a very subdued and well-executed take on chicken wings.

The gang keo wan, or green curry, on the other hand, is surprisingly bland. That’s not to say it isn’t good, but compared to other curry options in Austin, it leaves something to be desired in terms of spiciness, which may actually come to the relief of some customers. However, the coconut milk, peppers and eggplant are noticeably fresh and tasty, while the chicken is nice and tender.

Overall, Songkun Phayungpong’s love for the food he makes is sure to translate into a string of successes for the new restauranteur.