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Foodie Fare

Savory ‘Street Food’ Brings the World of Bangkok to the Islands

Story By Christina O'Connor Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
June 17 - 23, 2012

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Some foodies might be skeptical when Patrick Chang, owner of Bangkok Chef, describes his restaurant’s cuisine as Thai “street food.” But Chang explains that the restaurant derives its inspiration from Bangkok’s vibrant world of food vendors found in the streets of the country’s capital.

“In Thailand, almost everywhere you go, there is food all over,” says Chang. “Food is a big event in Thailand. They eat all the time, and you can find food at any corner in Thailand … If you go to Bangkok, at almost every street corner on almost any stretch of street, you see vendors selling all kinds of food.”

“Our food is like the food you find there. We keep it very simple,” Chang continues. “Simple and delicious — that’s our motto.”

His wife, Sansane Pornchairattanakun, is the head chef, and brings a lifetime of experience in Thailand to the position. Her family owns a restaurant in Thailand, and she grew up helping out in the kitchen and honing her culinary skills.

Diners can start off their meal with savory appetizers that include Spring Rolls (six pieces for $6.90) or Summer Rolls (two pieces for $4.50). Entrees include options such as Cashew Nut Chicken ($6.65, add $2 for Fish; $2.55 for Shrimp) and Panang Pork Curry ($6.65, add $2 for Fish; $2.55 for Shrimp).

“Our Pad Thai ($6.65, add $2 for Fish; $2.55 for Shrimp) is always No. 1. We sell a lot of Pad Thai,” Chang says. “It’s really good! You know, I just finished eating our Pad Thai myself.” The dish consists of rice noodles fried with egg, chicken, tofu, bean sprouts and chives, with crushed peanuts on top — all bathed in a sweet, tangy sauce. Chang says the sauce, which is made in-house, is one thing that makes the dish so good.

Other customer favorites include the restaurant’s wide array of tasty curry dishes, such as Thai Green Curry ($6.65, add $2 for Fish; $2.55 for Shrimp). The dish is a creamy medley of eggplant, bamboo shoots, chicken breast, peas, lime leaf and coconut milk served with jasmine rice.

One dish that really showcases the restaurant’s street vendor influences is Tom Yum Goong ($8.90).

“If you go to Thailand, everywhere you go, there is Tom Yum soup,” Chang explains.

Bangkok Chef offers a worthy rendition of the popular Thai dish, which is comprised of shrimp, mushrooms, lemon-grass, lime leaf and tomato in spicy and sour broth.

Chang says that many of the vegetables used in the Tom Yum Goong are procured from local farms — a trend that extends to much of Bangkok Chef’s menu.

“We have a lot of local farmer friends throughout the island, and so we get our produce from places like Waimanalo and North Shore,” Chang says. Many of the restaurant’s core ingredients, including basil, eggplant, Thai ginger and string beans, come from local farms.

“Whatever we can find that is local, we will use,” Chang says. “Fresh (produce) is always good to begin with … And, of course, we are supporting each other — we and the farmers.”

On the Side

What is now Bangkok Chef first began as a produce market in Nuuanu about 10 years ago, started by the husband-and-wife team of Patrick Chang and Sansane Pornchairattanakun. “We sold fresh produce,” Chang says, adding that their goods came from local farms. “In addition to the produce, we also sold things like curry sauce, coconut milk and dried goods to make Thai food.”

About a year after opening the produce market, the couple decided to expand their venture. Drawing on Pornchairattanakun’s cooking skills — along with the produce that they readily had available in the store — it only made sense to open a restaurant.

“We thought, ‘Why not put her skill to work?’ She is a good cook, and (since) everything was there already, we might as well make use of it,” says Chang, who also has years of experience in the restaurant industry.

They started things off small — just a couple of chairs in the Nuuanu store. But soon, the eatery’s popularity grew and it became clear that they needed to expand. About four years ago, they opened a second location in Manoa, and just last year, they opened a third restaurant on Nimitz.

Combining authentic Thai influences with fresh, local produce has proven to be an unbeatable combination — one that has earned the restaurant a steady following.

“We have many regular customers, and they all have their favorite dish,” Chang says.

Bangkok Chef

  • Where
    • Nimitz
    • 900 North Nimitz Highway
    • Honolulu, HI 96817
    •  
    • Manoa
    • 2955 E. Manoa Road
    • Honolulu, HI 96822
    •  
    • Nuuanu
    • 1627 Nuuanu Avenue
    • Honolulu, HI 96817
  • Call
    • (808) 536-8570 (Nimitz)
    • (808) 988-0212 (Manoa)
    • (808) 585-8839 (Nuuanu)
  • Hours
    • Nuuanu & Manoa
    • 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
    • Monday – Saturday
    • Noon – 8 p.m.
    • Sundays
    •  
    • Nimitz
    • 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
    • Monday – Saturday
    • 11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
    • Sundays