By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
With a name like Khun Mae, I was expecting a true blue Thai restaurant with authentic Thai cuisine. I did get authentic Thai cuisine but didn’t bargain for some unusual ‘fusion’.
Located in the relatively new row of shop houses known as Pinji Centre Point behind the Tow Boo Keong Temple, Khun Mae is yet another Food and Beverage outlet opened by an Ipohite who has come home to roost. Khun Mae is operated under the name of his company Food Renegades Sdn Bhd, which describes the food concept to a T, by Wilfred Spykerman who is a man who will not be ‘boxed’ in. A man of many talents and ethnicity, Wilfred is married to a Thai (Nit Noy which means little in Thai and she is tiny in size) who loves to cook (in fact a large majority of chefs in Thailand are women) Wilfred decided to open Khun Mae with his wife at the helm in the Thai kitchen ably assisted by Simon a Hainanese chef who used to work on a ship, who is the creator behind some of the fusion dishes as well as the western ones. Together the team has come with up an interesting menu with selections that vary from Thai, Western, to Fusion, with some lovely drinks to boot.
To do justice to the wide selection on the menu with new dishes being added, my team and I had to go twice to sample some of the dishes on offer. The drinks are displayed on the wall at the back of the restaurant. I opted for the Lemongrass tea and Veronica the Bael tea. We all know about the benefits of Lemongrass which is known to be purifying and Bael fruit (Wood Apple) has medicinal properties among which is its aid in digestion. Priced at RM3.50 each, these are made ala minute and can be drunk hot or cold.
My favourite though is the Blue Pea or Butterfly Pea Flower tea which is served with a small glass of fresh squeezed calamansi (limau kasturi in Malay) juice. Known for its antioxidant properties, this brilliant peacock-blue tea usually shocks people who are unfamiliar with it as they think the colour is artificial. Wilfred calls this his “magic” drink as when you pour in the calamansi, the colour changes to a beautiful pink colour. Blue pea flowers are also used here at Khun Mae to colour the rice which is served with some of the dishes. RM4.30. Hot or cold. And you can also buy a bottle of his home grown dried Blue pea flowers for your home enjoyment for RM16.
On to the dishes. Their Boat Noodles are delicious. Thai ‘Sen Lek’ noodles which are brought in from Thailand, are served in a robust pork bone soup, with radish, meat, fish balls, fish cake, kangkong and oodles of yeem sai or coriander. Served with their Green Homemade chilli sauce, this is a ‘come-back-for-more” dish. RM8 per bowl.
On the subject of their homemade Chilli sauces, they also sell these, both the red and green version. The red is a tad sweeter while the green sauce called “Nam Chim” in Thai is one of my favourites, going beautifully with all manner of seafood and anything else as far as I am concerned. RM16 per bottle for takeaway.
Their “Moo Ping” or Thai Satay, grilled skewers of pork coated with a choice of sauces are delectable, enough fat interspersed with the layers of lean meat to make each stick juicy. I particularly like their fusion version coated with Sambal Belacan, fragrant, with a fiery kick. They also have black pepper and barbecue flavours. Served with their Blue Pea Flower rice, I was in culinary heaven. RM3 each with a promotional price of RM12 for 5.
Naturally I had to sample their Tom Yum Seafood soup which is the one classic that everyone orders. This arrived with a generous amount of prawns and squid in a delectably umami broth redolent with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and enlivened with a touch of cream. RM22.
On another occasion, I sampled their Tom Zap a clear tamarind soured soup with pork ribs cooked in the Isan style which was more pungent but equally yummy. RM19.90.
A very typical dish which is usually only found in Thailand is Cha-Om, a fern like tropical member of the acacia family which is very popular due to its high vitamin content. Brought in specially from Thailand (as are some of their other herbs, spices and specialties) Cha-Om is usually made into an omelette and here at Khun Mae is served with a red chilli paste and interestingly enough, Cincalok, our local Malaysian preserved shrimp RM12.
In Thailand, the Cha-Om omelette is usually eaten with Gaeng Som a Thai ‘Asam’ style curry of vegetables and shrimp that is more spicy than usual although here at Khun Mae I suspect it has been toned down for the local palate.RM24.
We had the steamed whole squid served with their Green Chilli sauce. The squid was cooked just right, tender and the sauce complimented the ocean freshness of the squid.RM18.90.
The list goes on and my dear readers will have to go and sample for themselves. Two more dishes that I urge you to try are the Black Pepper spaghetti with Northern Thai sausage (there is your fusion again!), al dente pasta replete with oodles of black pepper served with these very tasty sausages which they import from Thailand RM16.80.
And finally, of the savouries, the pork knuckle here is a crowd favourite, a whole whopping pork knuckle deep fried and served as a set with two soups and two salads. For RM9 per 100g an average sized knuckle of around 1.3kg should serve 4 people with normal appetites. The meat was tender and juicy although the crackling on the one we had was a tad too hard for me to risk my teeth on. Served with 3 different sauces, this is a feast for meat lovers.
Desserts are aplenty here with the two striking ones being the Mango and Sticky Rice RM10 and the Jackfruit and Sticky Rice RM8.Khun Mae99 Jalan Bharu, Pinji Centre Point, 31650 IpohWilfred Spykerman: 012 234 6064Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/khunmae.my/Business Hours: 12pm-9.30pm. Closed Wednesdays