Hong Fah, Grande PrairieThank goodness my mother-in-law is a whiz in the kitchen because eating in Grande Prairie would otherwise be a tastebud-numbing, revolving door of chain restaurants.

I’ve been visiting this northern Alberta city of pickup trucks and fantastic beef jerky for a few years now, resigned to the most exciting culinary outing being Mah’s Restaurant. But this time, I spied a tiny Thai restaurant behind Joey’s Only in one of the newer soulless expanse of retail stores power centres.

I dragged the family to Hong Fah before we left for the airport, hoping beyond hope that something delicious had finally landed in ole GP.

We walked into a quiet dining room decorated with beautiful hanging lamps, wood carvings and a big TV tuned into the Food Network.

We started with the boneless chicken wings ($12.40) stuffed with ground pork, bean noodle, onions, and carrots. The outside could have been crispier but the stuffing was deliciously spiced.

There was then a bit of a wait but I correctly guessed it was because the Thai chef was making the rest of our dishes to come out at the same time.

The chicken pad thai ($13.50) was beyond my (admittedly low) expectations because it had more “dry” authentic flavours than the sopping, saucy rice noodles many places serve as pad thai.

Hong Fah, Grande PrairieGiven the choice of mild, medium, hot or extra hot, we ordered both of our curries at medium spiciness. I scoffed at the idea that “medium” in a place like this would have any hint of heat. I was wrong.

Our beef panang curry ($13.50) was rich — it’s fried, and not boiled in coconut milk — with red and green peppers, lime leaves, and some definite heat. The pork green curry ($13.50), or gang kiew wann, also had a kick. We all got coconut rice ($3.50) because everyone loves coconut rice.

It was nice to see that Hong Fah’s menu has a good selection of curries, Thai soups, and stirfries. Our waitress was the only person working the front-of-house but she was very sweet and we didn’t find anything lacking in the service department. (Bonus: the surprisingly chic bathroom had a change table for the baby.)

A couple came in to pick up a huge catering order and the place was filling up nicely when we left. I really hope Hong Fah attracts enough regular customers to thrive in this land of fast food and chain restaurants.

Hong Fah, Grande Prairie

Hong Fah Thai Restaurant, 11735-105 St., Grande Prairie, Alberta, (780) 357-9988. Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Sundays.

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