WINE ME DINE ME
Like som tam and tom yum koong, phad kaprao is also considered a national dish many Thais grow up on and, unlike owning a Furby, eating it is an unspoken rite-of-passage for locals. However, the dish is so commonplace that its name conjures up just one image - steamed rice topped with fried egg and a side of minced pork stir-fried with basil and chilli - that you won't be wowed by anymore, just like your lover whom you meet too frequently.
The owner of Kapraoburi wants you to look at phad kaprao as a versatile dish that can be enjoyed in many ways; 30, to be exact. The new restaurant also incorporates a custom-made element in ordering the dish as you have final say in choosing the ingredients for your very own phad kaprao. While the concept of the food here is appealing, the setting is less so.
Kapraoburi isn't your place if you're the kind of person who wants a side of ambience while you eat. There are two rather narrow dining areas on the ground and first floor furnished with Ikea tables, chairs and lamps. The first floor is probably for people who want to get in and out quickly during lunchtime as it is where patrons sit around a very long table. The second floor offers individual tables in case you and your friends want to linger there a bit longer. While it seems not much thought was put into creating the atmosphere, it seems more consideration was put into the ordering system.
Deep-fried mackerel topped with stirfried basil with grounded pork
Here you can order phad kaprao both inside your comfort zone or out. First, you choose one out of five types of carbohydrate on offer - rice, bamee (yellow egg noodle), sen mee (white noodle), instant noodle or spaghetti. Then choose how you would like to take your phad kaprao - either placed next to your carb choice or mixed in. Then you can choose your meat from minced pork, ham and fermented pork, to roasted duck and more. The next step is to decide between "classic" or "extra spicy". Lastly, there's an option of adding a soft-boiled egg (B10), Thai-style omelette (B10, B20 with grounded pork or B25 with grounded shrimp), or fried egg (B10). The good news is that there are easily-navigated forms for you to fill in to make your kaprao decision easier.
I decide to go uber Thai with Deep-fried mackerel topped with stir-fried basil with grounded pork (B78; B5 extra for takeaway order). The stir-fry is spicy and aromatic as it should be but won't make you reach for a glass of water after a few bites. Pla too, which is known to have a strong taste on its own, doesn't take over the plate but adds just the right amount of saltiness. The fish is nicely filleted and thoroughly deboned so you won't relive a nightmarish childhood episode of pla too's bone being stuck between your teeth.
If you didn't have enough roasted duck over Chinese New Year already, try Stir-fried basil with roasted duck (B90). Being the cosmopolitan eater that I am, I have it with spaghetti, which costs B15 extra, but you can have this dish cheaper if you choose the other carb options. I also choose "extra spices" for this order in the hope to create a fly dish. Unfortunately, it's rather disappointing. The recipe contains some turmeric which gives it a nice yellowish shine and aroma but, as a whole, the dish tastes quite weak and feels oily rather than spicy.
Deep-fried fish cake wontons
I'm not deterred enough to stop playing god with my kaprao dish so I go with something I believe is a world first. It's Stir-fried basil with tender stewed fore shank (B75) with instant noodle. It does look like an abomination but, surprisingly, produces a curious impact. With this dish, you will have a spicy sensation from the Thai side along with a tender and aromatic taste from the Chinese-style pork.
Besides kaprao, Kapraoburi also offers six appetisers. Deep-fried fish cake wontons (B65) is basically a dressier version of tod mun pla. The crispy wonton sheet envelops tender and juicy bites inside. If you want to start on a lighter note, try Songkhla-style mango salad with grounded dried shrimp (B65). After many strong-flavoured dishes here, a simple glass of water may not be enough. Soothe your taste buds with sweetness of Iced milk tea (B35) or Iced lime tea (B35).
While it's noble for Kapraoburi to try to honour phad kaprao by adding new twists to it, I feel the alterations on offer taste too familiar especially for people who have eaten a lot of fusion food. Given its reasonable pricing, I guess it's an OK spot if you want a quick but tasty lunch or eat your kaprao minus the traffic fumes, heat and soi dogs. People who live and work in Ari area and people who are crazy for kaprao should consider it.
Ari Soi 2, BTS Ari
Stir-fried basil with roasted duck
Stir-fried basil with tender stewed fore shank
About the author
- Writer: Pornchai Sereemongkonpol
Position: Guru Reporter