The True Essence of Thai Cuisine
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Thai cuisine discriminates against no one. This world-famous culinary craze has always been one that generates quite an explosion onto the food scene — and for good reason. When it comes to Thai classics, each dish can be refined and adjusted to suit all palates. Whether intensely chili-hot or comparatively bland, Thai cuisine is a blending of various cultural influences that result in a marriage of richly decadent flavors and fresh ingredients.
And here at Bangkok Chef, owner Patrick Chang and his wife, Sansane Pornchairattanakun, bring a taste of Bangkok to our island home. With three locations islandwide (Nuuanu, Manoa and Nimitz), this renowned establishment has garnered quite a following among locals and tourists alike.
Dining Out most recently sat down with Chang and an assortment of the restaurant’s most sought-after dishes. It wasn’t long before Chang revealed the secrets behind Bangkok Chef’s many successes and made our mouths water with talk of hearty Thai masterpieces that are alluring to all appetites. Whether it be homemade Pad Thai noodles, creamy curries or crispy spring rolls that you’re after, here at Bangkok Chef, you can have it all: Sit back, relax and let your taste buds soak in the exotic flavors of Bangkok.
DO: What is the concept of Bangkok Chef?
Chang: We specialize in simple, home-cooked Thai cuisine. It’s very delicious and perfect for those on the go, and we offer our food at a very reasonable price. Our menu currently has about 33 items listed — it is very easy to understand as we offer a full description and photo of each dish.
DO: What is something diners would find interesting about Bangkok Chef, even the most loyal of patrons?
Chang: Not too many people are aware that in 2001 Bangkok Chef Nuuanu started off as a produce store, not a restaurant. We sold a lot of fresh produce and authentic Thai ingredients necessary in Thai cuisine. My wife was also teaching a Thai cooking class at the time, and all the students loved her food, so we figured we’d offer some of her cuisine to customers at our produce store. We ended up gaining a very good response and we started serving a few customers a day. It was a year later, in 2002, when Bangkok Chef really blossomed into a full-fledged restaurant. We did away with the produce store, but our Nuuanu location still offers some Thai ingredients for sale.
DO: Very neat! Now, close to 10 years later, Bangkok Chef is a thriving establishment with two additional locations in Manoa and on Nimitz Highway. Are there any differences when it comes to the three locations?
Chang: The food and prices are the same, however, the Nuuanu location is takeout-style only, where all the dishes are served in styrofoam containers. The Manoa location offers takeout and dine-in service, and the Nimitz location really focuses on dine-in dining and table service — but again, we do a lot of takeout there as well. Bangkok Chef also does catering, and we have separate catering menus.
DO: What are some signature favorites at Bangkok Chef? What’s always flying off the menu?
Chang: Of course, we have our classic Thai Green Curry ($6.65) served with sliced chicken breast, eggplant, bamboo shoots, kaffir lime leaves, peas and fresh basil in a green curry sauce and coconut milk over Jasmine rice, sticky rice or brown rice. It also can be served with fish or shrimp for an additional price. Our best-seller has to be our Pad Thai ($6.65), which features rice-noodles fried with egg, chicken, tofu, bean sprouts and chives doused in a house Pad Thai sauce. Again, fish or shrimp may be added for an extra cost. Then we have our Chicken Larb ($7.90) that consists of minced chicken with herbs and spices served with a special lemon sauce.
DO: All these dishes are very tempting! The restaurant also offers soup and salads for those interested, correct?
Chang: Yes, Bangkok Chef’s Mango Salad ($8.20) is very tasty. It’s on the spicier side and comes with shredded mango, carrot, shallot, Chinese parsley and chili peppers topped with cashew nuts and a house special dressing. I would also recommend Tom Kha Gai ($7.90), a coconut soup that is moderately spicy with pieces of sliced chicken breast simmered in coconut milk and garnished with Thai ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, chili and head cabbage.
DO: Is the cuisine derived from your own personal recipes?
Chang: Yes. My wife, Sansane, is from Bangkok, Thailand, and is responsible for all of our dishes here. She’s trained all of our cooks and chefs, and she’s very talented — her family even owns their own restaurant in Thailand called Watsana.
DO: Thai cuisine is generally known for its intense level of spiciness. For those who can’t take the heat, will they still find something they’ll enjoy on the menu?
Chang: Oh, definitely! When it comes to Thai food, there’s this misconception that it’s always spicy, and some people are afraid to try our food, but that’s not always how it is. There are certain levels of spiciness and we can always cater it to the specific customer. And some foods are much spicier than others.
DO: What specific cultures have influenced Thai cuisine?
Chang: Well, Thai food has been influenced by many different cultures including Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laos. Thai cuisine has expanded throughout the years and consists of many different spices and fresh herbs.
DO: People can’t seem to get enough of Bangkok Chef! What’s the secret to the restaurant’s success?
Chang: My wife always says that the most important thing is that you put your heart into your cooking, and that’s what we do here — that’s what makes our cuisine the best! Besides that, we always use the freshest ingredients possible and our portions are very, very generous.
- 900 North Nimitz Highway
- Honolulu, HI 96817
- 2955 E. Manoa Road
- Honolulu, HI 96822
- 1627 Nuuanu Avenue
- Honolulu, HI 96817
- (808) 536-8570 (Nimitz)
- (808) 988-0212 (Manoa)
- (808) 585-8839 (Nuuanu)
- Nuuanu & Manoa
- 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
- Monday – Saturday
- Noon – 8 p.m.
- 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
- Monday – Saturday
- 11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.