As luck would have it, I was the second to last person to take my turn to tell the group a little bit about myself, which just leaves me more time to agonize internally over what I will say, how I'll sound, if people will be able to tell I'm nervous, etc. Basically, I think too much. When it was my turn, the first thing out of my mouth was, "My name is Jennifer and I'm a foodie", and before I knew it, I was being asked about my favorite restaurants and everyone was offering up their suggestions on places I should try next.
Talk about the best icebreaker ever. At the break, my new friend Jamie told me about Wat Mongkolratanaram (or, the Thai Temple, as it's known around Tampa). She said that the Thai Temple has a following and that I'd be blown away. She was correct on both counts.
The first thing you must know if you plan on visiting is that they are only open on Sundays starting at 10am and that it gets very busy. I've been going to Thai Temple pretty steadily for the past 8 months and as a regular myself now, I can attest to the fact that even if you have had the longest Saturday night out and the roughest Sunday morning, you should still find your way to Thai Temple, and get up very early to do so.
Your first stop at Thai Temple should be to the Noodle Bowl station. As the highlight of the offerings at Wat Mongkolratanaram, this station gets busy and stays busy.
Volunteers man all stations on the outdoor patio of the Thai Temple and are some of the friendliest people ever. They are efficient, but are always welcoming, being sure to wish everyone a great day.
You can choose between beef, pork or veggie noodle bowls with thin, medium or thick noodles. The noodle bowl has beansprouts and other veggies in it, as well as meatballs. You can add fish oil, jalapenos, sugar and crushed red pepper.
Next up is the chicken and rice station, which always features a number of different curries. Red, green, pumpkin...the curries are all so versatile and come with chicken, beef of pork.
Basil Thai Chicken and Red Curry Potatoes
After the Curry station, you can opt for eggrolls and curry puffs, both of which are always crispy and very flavorful.
After grabbing a cup of Thai Tea (a delicious drink that reminds me somewhat of a creamsicle), we go sit out by the Hillsborough river.
Even with the large number of benches available, it can be pretty hard to find a seat as you get closer to mid-afternoon.
Wat Mongkolratanaram offers grilled chicken skewers, grilled corn, fried bananas and sweet potatoes, and a number of herbs, plants, drinks and to-go items.
Before you leave, make sure to stop inside the temple that is on premise. I took some time at a visit to listen to an expert from Thailand speak about their culture and beliefs. The Thai Temple is also cash-only so be sure to bring a handful of dollars. All proceeds go to the upkeep of the Temple. All noodle bowls and curry meals are $5, chicken skewers and grilled corn on the cob are each $3, Thai Tea is $1. Wat Mongkolratanaram is open from about 10am-2pm.
Are you a regular at the Thai Temple? What is your favorite item?