Not homemade, but it feels like it

Thonglor Thai Cuisine continues the vision of its founding master

Clockwise from top, the special edition of mooncakes; gaeng som pu khai; grilled sea bass with noni leaves; a set of nam phrik makham on; and the chicken curry cones.

Thailand monsoon season has officially begun. Amid the showery lockdown, I found nothing better soothed my culinary craving and uninspired soul than a home-cooked Thai meal.

Lately my cooking has benefitted very much from an abundance of vegetables in the family backyard. Dishes have been improvised around the constant availability of fresh-picked cha-om (climbing wattle), string beans, holy basil, ridged gourds and coriander.

It was until a feeling of gastronomic tedium kicked in that I began to bank my dietary needs on takeout meals from restaurants I trusted.

Among them was Thonglor Thai Cuisine, this week's subject of Eating In.

It was my first time to request for a delivery service from the fine establishment located on Sukhumvit 55, just 3km away from my house.

But it would be the fourth time that I was to enjoy its food, from the two-year-old kitchen scrupulously developed and formerly helmed by chef Vorapol Itthikhanesorn, one of my favourite Thai cuisine masters.

I learnt during a phone conversation with the restaurant that Vorapol has left for a new project.

Still, I was told, the culinary direction of Thonglor Thai Cuisine continues to follow the guidelines he installed. A proof of its continuous refined quality and diligence was found in the home-delivered lunch I had last Friday.

Gaeng som pu khai or sweet, sour and spicy southern-style curry with whole she-crab and pickled bamboo shoot.

Thonglor's takeaway offerings are basically provided from the existing dine-in menu, with a delivery fee -- should it be the case -- to be charged on top.

The menu focuses on home-cooked local recipes that pay tribute to seasonal ingredients.

You'll find from the 100-item selection anything from old-fashioned light bites to widely popular yum salads to various regional curries. There are also a wide range of nam phrik (chilli relish) and lohn (coconut cream relish), stir-fried, grilled, simmered and rice and noodle dishes. Vegetarian options are also available.

My seven-dish meal was highlighted by the all-time best-selling gaeng som pu khai (575 baht), a dish I had every time I visited the restaurant.

It's a southern-style curry featuring a whole she-crab in sweet, sour and spicy broth seethed dauntlessly with heaps of crushed fresh chillies.

Highly fragrant and super pungent, the dish is guaranteed to electrify connoisseurs of fiery food but could be terrifying for those with sensitive palates.

Deep-fried river prawns with crispy garlic.

Bathed in the orange-hued broth were meaty crab legs, loose crabmeat and crab roe as well as slices of pickled bamboo shoot, another representation of the flourishing rainy season.

The bamboo shoot was house-cured in coconut water to absorb the sweet juice while developing a sour taste. The crunchy shoot lent to the peppery curry a subtly sweet flavour that come with a crispiest texture. In summer months, slices of young durian flesh may also be included in the dish for an extra seasonal thrill.

Nuea pad bai yee-rah, or stir-fried beef with clove basil (199 baht), was also had.

Of it, tender slices of beef were wok-tossed with fresh bamboo shoot, lesser eggplants, green peppercorns, red chillies and clove basil. The dish celebrated a peppery characteristic of Thai cuisine with the clove basil leaves to provide a distinctive deep-heat flavour profile.

Of the next five dishes, the spicy levels ranged from moderate to mild.

First there was grilled sea bass with noni leaves (275 baht), another of the restaurant's more popular items.

Nuea pad bai yee-rah, or stir-fried beef with clove basils and fresh bamboo shoot.

Boneless fillets of the fish were thoroughly smothered in a mixture of thick coconut cream, herbs and mildly bitter noni leaves before being wrapped with banana leaves and flame-broiled. The dish might look a typical piquant curry but the taste, highlighting the naturally flavoursome fish, was hearty and delicate.

Looking similarly to the grilled sea bass dish but exhibiting a different mouthfeel was hor mhok lai bua in bamboo trunk (199 baht).

The fluffy steamed curry, seethed with minced meat of clown featherback fish and lotus shoots and augmented with kaffir lime leaves, unlike a typically spicy hor mhok curry, was rather sweet and had a custard-like feel to it.

I found a set of nam phrik makham on (young tamarind relish) with pan-fried pla thu (Thai mackerel) and deep-fried pla salid (gourami fish) accompanied by an assortment of vegetables (265 baht) a very delightful choice for takeout.

The thick and grainy relish was made with minced pork, young tamarind and chillies to offer a savoury sweet and tangy taste. It was complemented perfectly by the mildly briny fish as well as a dozen choices of vegetables including khamin khao (mango ginger), bitter gourd, mustard green, Vietnamese coriander and butterfly pea blooms.

An order of deep-fried prawns with garlic (370 baht) proved satisfactory for the six sizeable and meaty prawns. However a sparse offering of the crispy garlic made the dish quite disappointing.

Should you look for a one-of-a-kind, DIY treat, the restaurant's signature kruay kari, or chicken curry cones (215 baht), is probably a nice and scrumptious option.

A mooncake with very soft and glutinous skin.

Of it, a small portion of potato-based chicken curry was offered with five pieces of deep-fried cone-shape crepes in which diners are to fill with the curry before eating.

The restaurant's currently highlighted dessert had nothing to do with the rainy season abundance but to welcome the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.

Its special edition of mooncakes (550 baht for a box of six pieces) present six different filling flavours including green tea paste with caramelised coconut; sweet mung bean paste; black sesame with sweet golden threads; sweet taro with gingko nut; durian paste with sweet egg yolk; and lotus seed with sweet golden drop, in a very soft and glutinous mochi-like skin.

Thonglor Thai Cuisine is located at the ground floor of Staybridge Suites Bangkok on Sukhumvit 55.

Orders can be placed at 02-000-4701 and 095-426-4646 or Line: @thonglorcuisine or through food delivery applications including Line Man, Grab Food, Foodpanda and Robinhood.

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