Sa-ing Thai: Affordable & Authentic Thai Cuisine In Rita Ranch

First, drive east on Valencia Road. Pass Davis Monthan Air Force Base, quickly admire the colorful painted planes at Pima Air & Space Museum, and continue beyond Old Vail Road. Turn right at the McDonald’s.

Your destination: 9136 East Valencia Road. Nestled next to a Little Caesar’s Pizza and an insurance agency, you’ll find some of the most authentic and delicious Thai food in town. Sa-ing Thai has been serving traditional curry, soups, stir-fried noodles and house specialities out of this small, easy to miss location for 12 years. However, the secret is getting out. The restaurant was just recently acknowledged by Only In Your State’s “15 Restaurants In Arizona To Get Ethnic Food That’ll Blow Your Mind.”

Paper Chinese zodiac placemats greet you at linoleum tables, which fill up quickly for lunch and dinner. Despite crowds, the service is prompt and friendly, and often provided by the owners themselves.

Gaeng Garee at Sa-ing Thai (Credit: Theresa Delaney)

Gaeng Garee at Sa-ing Thai (Credit: Theresa Delaney)

Lunch specials start at only $7.95, and your choice of Thai curry, stir-fried pad thai, or a classic noodle dish is served with steamed rice, an eggroll and the soup of the day.

Though it’s hard to imagine a bad dish coming out of the kitchen – or the soup cart at the back of the restaurant – you are particularly lucky if the day’s soup is the Tom Yum, a hot & sour lemongrass soup flavored with lime juice and roasted chili paste, topped with a scoop of crispy wontons. Expect empty bowls to stack up quickly, especially during a Tucson cold spell.

If you like the sound of Gaeng Garee, a yellow curry with tumeric, coconut milk and cubed potatoes, you are better off ordering it for yourself, as convincing someone else to hand it over after the first bite could take extensive bartering. It has the perfect amount of spice for anyone that’s not ready to dive headfirst into Thai chilies, and pairs perfectly with a generous pile of steamed rice.

Pad Kra Tiem at Sa-ing Thai (Credit: Theresa Delaney)

Pad Kra Tiem at Sa-ing Thai (Credit: Theresa Delaney)

Even healthy eaters can enjoy a delicious meal, with options like the Pad Kra-Tiem. Sauteed meat is prepared with garlic and black pepper and served over a bed of cabbage. The light, sweet sauce and cilantro garnish add plenty of flavor to a dish that could otherwise get lost among plates of egg noodles and oyster sauce.

The expansive dinner menu offers an expanded version of the lunch menu, plus appetizers, like crab puffs, wontons and dumplings, salads, coconut or lemon grass based soup, fried rice and more elaborate house specialties. The most expensive, seafood-based dishes will run you $14.95.

Shrimp Pad Thai at Sa-ing Thai (Credit: Theresa Delaney)

Shrimp Pad Thai at Sa-ing Thai (Credit: Theresa Delaney)

Considering Tucson is known for spice of the habanero pepper variety, it may come as a surprise that the most popular dish is Gaeng Keow Wan – a Thai green curry with three chili peppers printed next to it on the menu. It is prepared with coconut milk, green beans, bamboo shoots, sliced bell pepper and fresh Thai basils.

As with the rest of the curry, pad and noodle dishes, you have your choice of vegetables, beef, chicken, pork tofu, or shrimp. If you’re feeling fancy, you can splurge on the seafood combination for $12.95.

When you’re finished with your meal, it’s a few short steps to the takeout counter to pay your bill and reach into a tin bucket for a few fortune cookies for the road. While it could be considered a long drive for anyone living north of Golf Links Road, it’s well worth the trip.

Theresa is a copywriter, food explorer and pursuer of all things creative. Find her at theresadelaney.com.

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