Bangkok’s Je Ngor worth many vis­its

The dishes at the Thai-Chi­nese restau­rant rec­om­mended by the Bangkok Miche­lin Guide are very good ... but there are so many oth­ers you must also try.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By BRIAN MARTIN star2@thes­tar.com.my

A FRIEND rec­om­mended a Thai Chi­nese restau­rant in Bangkok, fig­ur­ing that as a fre­quent trav­eller to the Thai cap­i­tal, I would be game for some­thing fu­sion or at least, not tra­di­tion­ally Thai.

Boy, was I glad he told me about Je Ngor. That was four years ago, and I’ve been go­ing back to the restau­rant on Sukhumvit 20 every year since then.

I’ve even be­come friends with the owner’s hus­band, Niphon Sa­j­javudh.

“Je Ngor is named af­ter my wife’s best friend’s mother. She is a fab­u­lous cook and when my wife and her buddy de­cided to open a restau­rant, they used her recipes and named it af­ter her,” Niphon told me.

The restau­rant has two dishes listed in Bangkok’s Miche­lin Guide (as of 2017). The orig­i­nal branch in Bangkok’s Chi­na­town was opened 20 years ago, and there are now 11 branches in sub­urbs around Bangkok. The main one, how­ever, is at Sukhumvit 20, opened 14 years ago.

So what makes this restau­rant unique? Well, for starters, Mrs Je Ngor was of Teochew de­scent and the ma­jor­ity of dishes served here are Teochew. Many Malaysians will in­stantly recog­nise some of th­ese. The other unique part of this eatery is the fact that 80% of its clien­tele are from Hong Kong!

“You’ve been here a num­ber of times, haven’t you re­alised this?” Niphon chided me, adding that the rest of his cus­tomers are lo­cals, main­land Chi­nese, Sin­ga­pore­ans and Malaysians.

For the pur­pose of this re­view, Niphon, a re­tired ad­ver­tis­ing big­wig, in­sisted we or­der the two Miche­lin rec­om­mended dishes – stir-fried shred­ded morn­ing glory and stir-fried crab with black pep­per.

First, the morn­ing glory or bet­ter known as kangkung in Malaysia. All I can say is, wow! Ac­tu­ally, dou­ble wow! It was un­like any kangkung dish I have tried, yet rel­a­tively sim­ple in its prepa­ra­tion. The chef, who’s been with the restau­rant since its open­ing, uses only the stems of the morn­ing glory and stir-fries it with lots of gar­lic. This was a great ap­pe­tiser.

As for the crab, it was su­per fresh and had lib­eral doses of pep­per – a lit­tle bit too much for my lik­ing though. Niphon ex­plained that the restau­rant gets all the seafood, meat and veg­eta­bles they use every morn­ing. They do not keep any­thing for the next day. “We’ve been do­ing this since day one,” he said.

Our next dish was the deep-fried minced seafood spring ball. Th­ese are tra­di­tional Teochew-style dumplings that have minced pork and shrimp mixed to­gether. We gave them the thumbs up for their crunchy ex­te­rior and juicy in­te­rior.

An in­ter­est­ing side to the dishes were ... the sides! There were so many dips, we counted at least eight. Sour, sweet, spicy, etc and they all went with spe­cific dishes or you could have them all on your ta­ble and try each one.

Just to prove that Je Ngor does tra­di­tional Thai too, the chef brought out the Som Tam or pa­paya salad. Yes, you can’t get more Thai than this. The dif­fer­ence was that the server asks you be­fore­hand what level of spici­ness you wanted for the dish: ex­tra spicy, spicy or mild. This is to suit the for­eign palate as Thais like it su­per spicy.

Speak­ing of su­per spicy, Je Ngor’s tom yum is the bomb! A few mouth­fuls of ei­ther the seafood or chicken variety, and you’ll find your­self sweat­ing pro­fusely. But if you re­ally can’t take the spice, I would sug­gest you skip this soupy dish as the heat and var­i­ous spices are re­ally what keep it to­gether.

To end the meal (be­fore dessert), we had the fried rice. And it wasn’t just any fried rice. The chef uses salted and oven-baked salmon in the dish and this gives it that ex­tra oomph. De­spite be­ing full, I greed­ily en­joyed a sec­ond bowl.

Fi­nally, the dessert. The menu in­di­cates a wide variety, but we chose the mango sticky rice (when in Thai­land, right?) and the tra­di­tional Teochew ningow or fried taro sprin­kled with fine pow­dery ic­ing sugar. Both were ex­cel­lent and a fit­ting end to a truly en­joy­able meal.

Din­ner for two at Je Ngor, with an ap­pe­tiser, two mains and dessert plus drinks, should set you back 1,500 to 2,000 baht (RM200 to RM250). It’s a bit pricey, but I would still rec­om­mend the restau­rant for its am­bi­ence, ser­vice and quality of food.

JE NGOR

68/2 Soi Sukhumvit 20 Kh­long Toei Bangkok, Thai­land

Tel: +66 2-258 8008 Open daily, 11.30am-11.30pm

— Pho­tos: BRIAN MARTIN/The Star

Je Ngor’s stir­fried shred­ded morn­ing glory (far left) and stir-fried crab with black pep­per are Miche­lin Guide rec­om­mended dishes.

The ever-friendly Niphon in front of his restau­rant, Je Ngor.

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