Local Hawaii ingredients used with an international flair
Monday, November 17, 2008
Kookie’s Thai Kitchen—outstanding flavor and affordable
by Larry Geller
We were thrilled to learn that Kookie is back in Honolulu, and this time with her own Thai restaurant and exciting new menu. Kookie’s Thai Kitchen opened Friday (Grand Opening will be Sunday, November 23) in a completely redecorated location on Middle Street, near Rose St. We rushed right over, eager for the flavors we remember from when she was the creative chef behind Club New Pattaya in Nuuanu. Kookie prepares the same food that we remember from our visits to Thailand.
We can report that her repertoire has expanded (the menu lists 69 dishes) and along with her versatility, her enticing presentation should make this new venture an instant success. The menu is priced right for our challenging economy—imagine finding a restaurant that is both affordable and at the top of its class. The interior is bright, welcoming and simple. Everyone is cheerful and happy to see you.
The prawns must be fresh, because they will be eaten raw. Aromatic nam pla fish sauce is a staple ingredient in Thai cooking and resembles the similar variations that are ubiquitous in many Asian cuisines. This dish is a perfect introduction to Thai flavors as you would experience them in Thailand, rather than in restaurants offering stereotypical curries and dishes heavy with coconut milk. The prawns were fresh and crisp and perfectly seasoned. From the photo you’ll see that garlic is another key ingredient in this dish. You’ll also note Kookie’s creative hand in the presentation.
Next we chose a longtime favorite, Yum ma keau yao, grilled eggplant with hot peppers and lemon juice. Yes, we like it hot. Kookie can accommodate any level of heat, so don’t hesitate to ask. Again, the main flavor, slightly smoky eggplant, is supported by the crunch of raw carrot, cilantro and other vegetables in a sauce that’s appropriately spicy but that doesn’t overpower the eggplant.
Sticky rice, khao neow, is the perfect accompaniment for these dishes, but you have your choice. Dishes originating from central Thailand often go better with plain rice.
Try eating the way they do in Thailand—with a tablespoon and fork instead of chopsticks. There will be serving spoons to take some of each shared course onto your plate. Use your spoon to take a little rice. Then with the spoon in your right hand (if you are right-handed) as the main eating utensil, use the fork in your left hand to push things together. No one will give you funny looks in Kookie’s Thai Kitchen. You’ll see others doing the same. We’ve carried this Thai habit into our home. It makes so much sense for many dishes to dig in with a tablespoon.
We’ll be back soon to work our way around the menu. Kookie is always there to help with suggestions and to explain what might be best on a particular day. We always (always!) go with her suggestions.
Kookie’s Thai Kitchen
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