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The Thai Boat Noodle Soup is one of the many traditional offerings you won’t find at a westernized Thai eatery. Photo by Lee Chastain.

Thai Charm Cuisine sits in a Haltom City strip mall that is home to a group of ethnic restaurants. Over the last two decades, many different Vietnamese, boba tea, and Thai joints (and a now-defunct Asian supermarket) have made this mall a destination for diners in search of more authentic versions of pan-Asian home-cooking.

I ordered a Thai iced coffee while my guests and I mulled over the menu. The sugary cream-infused java was rich and not bitter, and the glass was full of the tiny, crunchy, chopped square ice like the kind you get at Sonic restaurants.

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Thai Charm Cuisine

4023 E Belknap St, Ste A, Haltom City. 682-708-8921. 11:30am-8pm Sun, 11am-2:30pm and 4:30-9pm Tue-Fri, 11am-9pm Sat. All major credit cards accepted.

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For starters, the fresh spring rolls probably weren’t made to order but definitely weren’t made six hours prior, because the delicate rice paper wrapping hadn’t devolved into the consistency of flavorless gum. That tends to happen when a restaurant makes all its spring rolls early in the morning. Crunchy veggies and delicate slices of pork overflowed the roll, and the delicious peanut dipping sauce had an unusually chunky texture and, oddly, a bit of an oily sheen.

The crispy spring rolls, a combination of ground veggies and pork wrapped in a wonton casing and deep-fried, were accompanied by an orange sweet-and-sour dipping sauce that was also fantastic. I preferred the light, fresh spring rolls, but there was something very satisfying about the hearty fried ones.

The shrimp in a blanket turned out to be six full-size, torpedo-shaped whole crustaceans with the tails on. The elongated morsels were wrapped in sheets of rice paper and deep-fried … and were so tasty that it was worth burning your mouth for a bite of the fresh-from-the-fryer shellfish. The dish was also paired with more of the delicious orange dipping sauce.

The classic entrée of sweet-sour-salty-citrusy vermicelli rice noodle and chicken Pad Thai was just about perfect. If any of the flavors are out of balance in the tamarind-based sauce, the Thai favorite ends up tasting off. Here, choose from spice levels on a scale of one (mild) to five (Thai standard). Even at a relatively mild level two, the dish packed a subtle heat. In contrast, the Pad Si Iu’s soft, thick, flat rice noodles, beef, and veggies were bathed in a non-spicy soy-based sauce. It was fairly bland, but it was a great choice for someone who is perhaps new to the cuisine and averse to Thai standard.

The delicately fried pieces of chicken in the cashew-chicken entrée complimented the combination of salty cashew nuts, chili peppers, onion, scallions, and the light, slightly sugary soy sauce. It’s the only dish we ordered that tasted more like Chinese cuisine than Thai food. The chicken was crispy, and the salty crunch of the nuts paired well with the slightly chewy onion.

If it’s in season, mango sticky rice is one of the best desserts ever, and it’s included on Thai Charm’s small dessert menu. The Thai version of bread pudding was a winner: The warm rice base was covered in sweetened coconut milk and served with about a third of a fresh, fleshy, slightly tart mango.

All the dishes came out gorgeously garnished with carrots carved in the shape of butterflies, perched in nests of shredded cabbage. In the summer, it was just too darn hot to get a bowl of the restaurant’s apparently epic Thai boat noodle soup (dark blood broth, stewed beef tendon, meatballs, and veggies) or one of the traditional soups loaded with blood curd, fermented tofu, and other waste-not, want-not ingredients that you won’t find at a more Westernized eatery. But it would be worth a trip back to Haltom City for the impeccable service and authentic Thai cuisine.

[box_info]Thai Charm Cuisine
Fresh spring rolls     $8
Shrimp in a blanket     $10
Pad Thai     $10
Cashew chicken     $11[/box_info]

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