Send Noods: We Wish Krung Thep In Republik, Damansara Heights, Delivered Straight To Our Office
I am on the threshold of heaven and hell, veering between the gateway of one and the anteroom of the other.
And it is all because of the most unassuming dish on the menu: the winged beans (aka four-angled beans) with plump prawns, chilli jam, and an onsen egg on the verge of detonating molten yolk. Coconut milk puts the 'yum' in the Yum Tua Plu, but no amount of Butterfly Pea Cooler will quell the fire in my gob after failing to circumvent an especially large piece of chopped dried chilli.
My dining companions offer me sips of their Lemongrass Cooler and Cha Yen as I fruitlessly fan my tongue, but masochism impels me to ride out the wave.
Krung Thep's refusal to tone down the spice for the general public is precisely one reason they've earned our respect. For a restaurant whose motto is 'Thailand's regional best,' to deviate from authenticity would be antithetical, hypocritical even.
Chef Gug delivers home-style cooking but at restaurant standards.
Though incredibly camera-shy, Piyanat "Gug" Yowabut is one credible chef whose authority carries clout.
'Nose to tail' trended a little late in contemporary cooking in the Western world, but has been part and parcel of Southeast Asian cuisine from time immemorial.
Feeling a bit like the evil queen in a fairytale, I gorge myself on hearts and gizzards tossed with herbs and Sriracha.
But instead of naive princesses from mythical kingdoms, the victims are domesticated fowl.
"I usually eat this with beer," says marketing communications manager Sabrina Loh, wiggling her eyebrows mischievously.
In my mind, Krung Thep is synonymous with deep-fried chicken done well—thanks in part to the restaurant's practice of serving complimentary bowls of chicken skin cracklings—but the Kor Gai with charred chicken falls a little short. Clumps of rice noodles turned gummy could almost be mistaken for gnocchi, and the chicken could have 'lotioned up' a bit more in its lifetime. The only saving grace is the generous portion of chicken skin that's showered on top, hopefully à la Salt Bae style.
Conversely, the Pad Thai rearranges past perceptions of Thailand's most popular export. While I never understood why 'guai los' love the noodle dish so, Krung Thep more than does it justice. Tofu, toasted peanuts, prawns, crunchy sprouts and scrambled duck egg cosy up on a mattress of slim rice noodles. The first mouthful rocks me to the core. There is no need for table sugar or fish sauce (although both are in the four-jar condiments holder) when enjoying this most flavourful of dishes.
Come dessert, pisang tanduk assumes centre stage. More texturally similar to a tuber than most fruit, this local variety of banana is far from sweet, hence the need for saccharine sidekicks.
What is it about hot plus cold combinations that work so beautifully?
Krung Thep's take on the Thai street food known as Gluay Bing marries sliced bananas hot off the grill with two pleasingly large scoops of vanilla ice cream. Both are bathed in a palm sugar and turmeric sauce that's reminiscent of melting kaya when slathered on fresh toast—this final impression underscores why many Malaysians will never tire of Thai food: exuding just enough exoticism, the cuisine remains reassuringly familiar at large.
- Photography Khairul Imran