So what happens when you struggle to find a decent meal to enjoy on a daily basis? In the case of Kasama Laopanich and Billy Bautista, you start your own restaurant.
The restaurateur duo already run La Monita Taqueria, Osito, and Billy’s Smokehouse within the same compounds at Mahatun Plaza, but something was missing.
“Prior to the opening of Thai Niyom (Bib Gourmand), decent Thai food packed with an explosion of flavours was not easy to find in downtown Bangkok during lunchtime,” says Laopanich. “We make food how we like to eat it,” says Bautista. “This is our recipe for success.”
Judging by the groups of friends chatting animatedly over a meal, they might be right.
The two self-proclaimed foodies are not classically-trained chefs, but they both know what they like. About a quarter of the menu is inspired by Laopanich’s childhood when she would help her mother cook a wide range of dishes including regional cuisine.
Other creations are drawn from personal dining experiences during their travels, after which they would recreate the flavours (like the fluffy Thai omelette inspired by one they saw at Mont-Saint-Michel in France).
All the curry paste here is made in-house. Garlic is sourced from Sisaket Province, shrimp paste from Klong Klone, and dried chili from Sakon Nakhon Province. Baustista brings his know-how on sausage-making to make the northern Thai sai-oua sausages from scratch, prepared with hand-ground meat and chilli paste, fresh hog casings, and grilled over wood.
“We try to find pork that is free from hormones and antibiotics, and we source organically whenever we can,” says Laopanich.
The food here is intense, salty and spicy – just the sort of flavours that are perfectly paired with a refined quality drink.
You’ll also want to try a selection of dishes, so invite some mates, and get ready for a session of eating, drinking, and being merry – as we know, food always tastes better when enjoyed with friends.
This platter combines all the classic appetisers from the northern city: sai-oua sausages, deep- fried pork belly, pork and tomato relish, green chilli relish, and pork cracklings. The full flavour of Chang cleanses the palate between nibbles, while the variety of items encourage sharing amongst friends.
The double-dredged pork belly – “Kad Luang deep-fried pork belly” whose name derives from the famous Worarot Market in Chiang Mai (known as kad luang by the locals) gives off a light cumin aroma. Other small details that make this symphony of flavours and textures stand out is the nam prik ong (pork and tomato relish), which is less watery and less sweet than the standard fare. Chefs scrape seeds from half the green chilies before they are pound into nam prik noom (green chili relish) to ensure the level of spiciness is completely-reined in.
Crispy Thai omelette with cracklings
Omelettes are arguably unexciting, but here, they’re a bona fide standalone dish and a perfect bar snack. Instead of the normal omelette, the egg – they use duck here – is whisked from high above a deep pot of oil to form a thick layered mesh of deliciousness that’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
To elevate the “eggs-perience”, the dish comes with extra pork cracklings mixed with chilli paste which packs a serious punch and hits you in all the right spots. The carbonation of an icy golden brew cuts through the fat of the pork cracklings to bring out the aromas and flavours of fried garlic and shallots.
Signature stir-fried green papaya with ground pork
This is what Laopanich’s comfort food looks like. It’s simple, wholesome, and tastes of her childhood. Shredded green unripe papaya – the same used in som tum Thai papaya salad – is stir-fried with minced pork and seasoned with garlic and oyster sauce. The papaya is soft but the bite is substantial, not unlike an al dente feel, and makes for a delightful non-spicy dish to soothe the tongue between fiery bites. The combination is simply fantastic! Why didn’t anyone ever think of this before?!
Stir-fried Melinjo leaves with scrambled eggs
Stir-fried Melinjo leaves are a common fixture on southern Thai menus, but here, they are shaped into a bar of goodness before plated. The full flavour and carbonation of a refreshing lager balances the sweetness and enhances the leaves’ delicate, sweet flavours.
Grilled fish curry custard
Have your ice-cold lager ready, because you’ll want the maltiness to balance out the spiciness and pungency of this curry custard.
When creating the recipe, much attention was paid to perfecting the texture to ensure the egg yolk is soft as a custard rather than overcooked and rubbery. There’s also a subtle fragrance of the banana leaf which is used as the wrapping and lightly grilled over charcoal.
Southern style stewed pork with Chinese “five spice” powder
This dish is a cross between kai palo (five spice stew) and the traditional southern-style moo hong, and served with Japanese style onsen eggs to give it a familiar-but-different vibe. You’d expect this dish to be sweeter, but as with other dishes in the restaurant, they tone down the sweetness and dial up the other flavours.
The hefty chunks of pork are about three inches thick, packing in a symphony of spices that are soaked up during the two-hour stewing process. The hoppy bitterness of the lager works perfectly to balance out the richness of the pork belly.
Thai food is meant to be shared with friends. Excellent Thai food, on the other hand, brings groups of friends together for a memorable culinary experience that’s far greater than the sum of each single dish.
To learn more about Chang’s spirit of lamiat, a philosophy underpinned by a deep and authentic appreciation in the small details that produce perfection, visit www.changbeer.com/lamiat
Here's What Our Inspectors Said About Thai Niyom (Bib Gourmand)
Thai Niyom began with family recipes from the owner's family but now offers a wide variety of Thai cuisine, from the North to the South. Ingredients are sourced locally and prepared fresh, including the Northern Thai sausage. Don't miss the robustly flavoured but lightly textured southern yellow curry or the fluffy omelette if you need a break from the spiciness. Despite the glittering shop name, the design keeps things rustic.