First there was Surisit, the Thai kopitiam. Now the owners have started a pork-free outlet called Namprik in the same suburb, with new dishes to tickle the fancy of diners.
WHO would have thought of having laksa as a starter while waiting for the rest of dinner to be served?
But Sita Nirmala, one of the owners of Namprik, a new Thai restaurant in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL, thinks nothing of it as she shows us the etiquette of eating Thai laksa.
“Take some noodles, twirl them in your bowl. Add the basil, beansprouts, cucumber, long beans, salted vegetables and a slice of duck egg, and, if you dare, a deep-fried dried cili padi!”
She then pours in the thick, spicy laksa gravy with slivers of kaffir lime leaf.
“Thai laksa is never eaten hot,” she says, which is a little surprising because diners here prefer theirs piping hot.
Did you know the Thais have 20 types of laksa? Sita, for instance, has served a version with thin slices of bamboo shoot in the curry. What we are having now is the creamy version with fish, with aromatic bursts from kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass and fresh sweet basil.
The salted vegetable hits the palate, then the sweet of the laksa gravy spreads around it as you pick up the smooth noodles smothered in it. Then you take note of the crunchy long beans and cucumber and the half-cooked duck egg.
The laksa is scrumptious. I keep going back to its delicious gravy even when my attention is diverted to other dishes being served.
Namprik is pork-free; it’s the sister restaurant to Surisit, a Thai kopitiam in another part of Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. Namprik is a full-fledged Thai restaurant, occupying two floors and boasting a casual but elegant ambience. There is a private dining room upstairs that seats 20 people.
The word namprik refers to a Thai relish or sambal, and there are six types on the menu, the most popular being the namprik kapi or Thai shrimp paste dip. It is usually served with a platter of fresh cucumber, long beans, cabbage, fried eggplant, fried mackerel and cha om (Thai vegetable) omelette.
After the laksa comes the Oxtail Tomyam. In it are chunks of tender oxtail, tripe and tendon, together with abalone mushrooms and, of course, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal and bird chillies. The tendon has been braised well with spices beforehand, as has the oxtail and tripe, so that it’s all gloriously soft and gelatinous.
The meat falls off the bone in the oxtail, while the tripe is tender but still retains its bite. The clear tomyam is well balanced with the hot and sour, tempered with a little sweetness. In fact, there are mellow tones because of the oxtail.
I have never eaten raw kai lan, and this is in the Grilled Beef Salad with Fresh Young Kale in garlic dressing. It’s the healthiest dish we’re having. The beef, pink and tender from grilling, is topped with the young, sweet and crunchy shoots of kai lan. The beef is also surrounded by raw garlic pieces and shredded raw cabbage, all brought together by a piquant, garlicky and hot dressing.
I even like the raw garlic dipped in the garlic dressing.
Then there is the Crispy Fried Fish Thai Style with turmeric and garlic. The fish is first deepfried, then topped with crispy fried garlic pounded with turmeric. It is served with an intense dip of chilli, garlic and fish sauce. We agree the fish has all the right elements and lots of oomph. We also ordered a Steamed Garoupa with salted vegetables and pickled leek head, and this seems ordinary by comparison.
A curry is a must in any Thai meal, and the Thai Prawn Curry with Pineapple fits right into our dinner. The sweetness of the pineapple comes through in the rich curry, which makes you want to eat rice. Try also the Fried Chicken Wings with kaffir lime leaves. The well-seasoned, golden-fried chicken wings taste so good with the crispy kaffir lime leaves, garlic and chilli.
Meanwhile the Crispy Rice Cakes with Chicken Dip is really a sweet, spicy and aromatic curry dip with chicken in it. For those who can’t start a Thai meal without Mieng Kam, know that it’s on the menu at Namprik.
Eating at Surisit, we always thought the Tab Tim Krob came in pieces too tiny to fully appreciate the texture of waterchestnut with the sticky coating of tapioca flour. Here at Namprik, the “Thai rubies” and the coconut milk are bigger, and slivers of jackfruit add their distinctive flavour to it.
The Banana in Coconut Milk is a good choice for dessert, and some of the drinks on the menu are very dessert-like. Take the scrumptious Fresh Thai Coconut with Lychee. It has the lovely fruit and young coconut meat blended together with ice – truly ambrosiac.
Namprik is located at 50 Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad 1, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-7732 4342.