Kauai Thai Food at Bangkok Happy Bowl
Fresh, flavorful and delightfully aromatic is how I describe the Thai food at Bangkok Happy Bowl. Inside, color abounds in the half Thai, half Japanese restaurant. After opening in the Poipu Shopping Village last October, the dual concept will soon include sushi. Original paintings of rock stars hang near what will be “Sushi Rock Bar” and every Friday night, Addison Bulosan and Juno Apalla play contemporary soul music.
Bangkok Happy Bowl is the fourth restaurant owned by Kirk Coult and his wife Paula Rungsawang-Coult. The couple also own three in Colorado: one in Aspen, another in Basalt and a third is being built in Breckinridge.
Paula is from Thailand and her family recipes fill the lengthy menu. Her sister Nora, along with four other chefs from Thailand, cook curries and noodle dishes in large woks.
“We didn’t have a refrigerator when I was young,” recalls Paula, “and it was long before grocery stores, so we had to buy fresh ingredients every day.”
“That is a typical market in Thailand,” says Kirk, pointing to a large painting on the wall near the front door. “You buy produce and fish from people in boats on the river.”
Paula’s menu is infused with produce grown by a nearby Thai farmer. There are plenty of vegan and gluten-free choices and all curries, pastes, broths and hot sauces are made from scratch. Flavorful chili sauces range in heat from garlicky, to a pleasant warmth, to fiery. Paula says many Thai restaurants use vinegar for the sour element, but she insists on authentic tamarind sauce.
Here’s a tip for those who do not like spicy food, and I mean spicy as in hot, not flavorful, because everything here is packed with flavor. While reading the menu, look for dishes without a chili pepper by its name. These have no heat. Those with one chili pepper have a pleasantly mild heat, but if you like it hot, look for two chili peppers. Tell the waitress you’d like it “Thai hot” if you want to burn your face off!
Satay Chicken ($8.95) comes with skewered strips of marinated breast meat. A side of chunky cucumber “sauce” adds bright contrast to the rich peanut sauce. Paula says the dish is best when you remove the chicken from the skewers, pour the peanut sauce over it and then sprinkle the cucumber sauce over everything.
Pla Lad Prig ($27.95) is an outstanding dish. The house specialty features a whole fresh snapper that’s deep-fried then coated in an aromatic sauce of kaffir lime, tamarind pulp and fish sauce. The flesh is tender and the skin is crisp. It’s topped with sautéed bell peppers, fried basil leaves, garlic, lemongrass and chunks of ginger. The dish has a great heat level, which is medium, but you can go hotter if you like.
Poh-Tac ($19.95) is a spicy seafood soup served in a hot pot. Intensely flavored broth is flavored with lemongrass and kaffir lime and studded with mussels, baby squid and shrimp.
Beef Salad ($15.95) is an excellent option if you’re on a Paleo diet. Tender barbecued beef is cut into thin strips and served with tomatoes, purple cabbage, cucumbers, mint and raw white onion slices. Lime juice and a sweet dressing is drizzled over.
If you don’t like heat, order the Massaman Curry ($17.95) with potatoes, carrots and toasted peanuts. I like the mild heat in the Green Curry ($17.95), which is luscious and light. Eggplant – grown by that Thai farmer – floats in a complex sauce with strips of chicken, crisp broccoli, carrots, Thai basil, green beans, red bell peppers, celery and zucchini.
“I learned how to cook with fresh ingredients,” says Paula. “Kauai has such abundant produce and beautiful fish, we are happy be able to use those ingredients in our dishes.”
Bangkok Happy Bowl
2360 Kiahuna Plantation Drive
Inside Poipu Shopping Village
Mon. through Thurs.11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sun. 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
10 percent kamaaina discount available
All images copyright Daniel Lane/Pono Photo. For more information, visit www.PonoPhoto.com.