AUTHENTICITY FIRST AT MOOM GAPAO
MOOM GAPAO PROVES THERE’S ONLY ONE HONEST WAY TO MAKE KAOPADGAPAO
OFTEN WHEN people are unsure what to order for lunch at a food stall, an easy pick is kaopadgapao – stir-fried pork or chicken with leaves of holy basil, served over rice. The pick is so easy, in fact, that it’s called a “silly dish”.
The truth, though, is that there’s not much appetising about the kaopadgapao offered at many street-food stalls. You get chopped long beans, onion, baby corn, carrot and a lot of oyster sauce, and maybe a basil leaf or two. This variety isn’t even true to the dish’s name.
Teerapol Rojthinnakorn and Pongkwan Tohsanguanpun were disappointed, to say the least. The both adore
kaopadgapao and they wanted it made the way they preferred it, the original way. So they opened their own kao pad
gapao restaurant. And Moom Gapao has nothing but kao
padgapao on the menu. “I believe most people want stir-fried meat, basil leaves and rice and nothing else – you don’t need all the vegetables added on,” says Teerapol. “But street vendors always dump in a lot of vegetables to reduce their costs. It looks like stir-fried mixed vegetables topped with a thick gravy of oyster sauce!”
Opened last February on the second and third floors of the Photo Mania Building on Bangkok’s Soi Asoke, Moom Gapao offers stir-fried minced pork and stir-fried chopped chicken with holy basil on rice. It costs Bt55.
There are add-ons available. You can add a fried egg or a Thai-style omelette (Bt9 if chicken eggs are used and Bt13 if you prefer duck eggs).
Instead of chicken or pork, you can have Australian minced beef, salmon, duck, shrimp, squid, German sausage, Thai sausage or the pork charcoal-grilled, or, for a vegetarian course, tofu or eringii mushrooms.
“The other meat choices require a day’s advance notice and a minimum order of five dishes or take- away boxes,” says Pongkwan. “And we also deliver!” The only other options are whether you want your meal spicy or not so spicy.
Moom Gapao seats 50 people in a clean, minimalist setting. It’s always packed with office workers at lunchtime. You order and pay at a counter and your dish is brought to your table.
“We call it ‘fast casual’ service – a combination of fast food and proper dining, meaning quick service yet high-quality ingredients, without processed food or MSG,” says Pongkwan. “At rush hour, people need something quick, but it should be high in quality and affordable. Our place meets those needs.”
The ingredients include jasmine rice from Ubon Ratchathani, preferred for its softer texture, and aromatic, chemicalfree Thai basil leaves from Ratchaburi, which have a strong flavour.
“We did research and found that the rice from Ubon Ratchathani and basil from Ratchaburi are among the best in Thailand,” says Teerapol. “The pork and chicken we use have less fat than normal. Every dish is made fresh to order, but we control the standards and taste with our special secret-recipe sauce.”
Teerapol’s family runs a food-packaging company, Rianthong Plastic, so he already had a handy connection with food suppliers. “For the meat and eggs, we have our trusted farms, and we plan to grow our own chemical-free basil in Samut Prakan,” he says.
I went for the chicken crowned with a duck egg and your basic level of spiciness.
The chicken is indeed lean. It’s stir-fried to a nice balance of flavours, with the flavour of oyster sauce noticeably missing. The egg is fried crispy on the outside with the yolk slightly runny, but you can tell the staff how you want it done.
The option I chose entailed 85 grams of steamed rice and 80 grams of meat. For the “jumbo” serving, with half as much again rice and meat, you pay an extra Bt10.
If time is against you, ask for a “to-go cup” with the rice and meat in layers and a fried egg white and fried yolk on top. You can eat it while in transit and even pop it into your car’s cup holder.
Moom Gapao now has branches at Thaniya Plaza on Silom Road and the Midway Point mall on Kanchanapisek Road.
Teerapol plans to have six outlets by the end of this year and 30 within the next three years.
Stir-fried pork or beef with holy basil leaves and rice peek out from under a fried egg or omelette.
Moom Gapao is the inevitable destination for fans of kao pad gapao.
Pongkwan Tohsanguanpun, left, and Teerapol Rojthinnakorn
Stir-fried eringii mushroom
The “to-go cup” holds the whole dish with the ingredients in layers.