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.

Stir-fried chicken

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