If anyone ever asks me what I’d want to have for my last meal before my last breath… It’d be creamy tom yum kung. Gawd just typing it makes me salivate. If I could marry tom yum, I would. No joke.
When I was 8 years old and my parents had just moved us to Malaysia from Canada, tom yum soup was my first encounter with spicy foods and I haven’t looked back ever since. Thai, Malaysian, Chinese, Indian… If it’s spicy, imma need to have it!
Kung in Thai means prawn or shrimp. Tom yum kung is a spicy and tangy soup with a prawn broth base that is fragrantly flavoured by lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, bird’s eye chillies, lime juice and an addition of evaporated milk for extra creaminess! There are two types of tom yum soup, one being the clear version (without evaporated milk) and the latter a creamy version. I love, love, LOVE the creamy version.
Fate be it that I was to reunite with my dear lover, tom yum last December… In Nakhon Pathom. One of my dad’s Thai friends had recommended this sweet little place and boy were we all in for a deeeeeeelicious ride!
About a 45-minute drive from Bangkok, we found ourselves at Aor Kung Pao. Upon arrival, it became clear that we were the only non-locals at the restaurant: Authentic local joint, ding ding DING!
None of us spoke Thai but luckily we had a link to their website and so we resorted to the classic point and thumbs up method. Good ol’ technology to save our hungry asses 😛
Befitting to its name, Aor Kung Pao, the speciality here is nothing other than kung a.k.a prawns! Before you enter Aor Kung Pao, the restaurant front boasts a handful of circular containers filled with live freshwater prawns. Not only do they cook these prawns for customers, I noticed they also packaged them in ice boxes as pick up orders.
There ain’t anything fancy here, the kitchen is laid out openly in an anything-goes fashion, there are tables filled with tropical fruits and miscellaneous toys for sale. What they may lack in decor or ambience, they more than make up for with their food!
Our first dish here was the deep-fried fish. We had no idea what kind of fish we had ordered but what we knew for sure was that the Thai do know how to fry some dang good fish! Not only that, they know how to serve it with the tastiest chilli sauce on the side. Everywhere we went in Thailand, each place would serve their deep fried fish with their own version of a homemade chilli sauce. And it’d always be so tasty that we’d end up asking for more!
In quick succession, we received a clam dish, a stir-fry vegetable dish, two prawn dishes cooked in different styles and of course, the much-awaited tom yum kung!
The clam dish wasn’t very memorable and the vegetable dish was alright. The stand out dishes really came down to the freshwater prawns. So fresh they were, you could eat the prawns whole WITH the shells. YES, that’s how fresh they were. Normally, I’d never eat my prawns with the shells on but oh my… These freshwater prawns were on another level. No wonder customers were buying these in big ice boxes!
We had ordered two dishes of prawns; one cooked in a basil chilli sauce and the other was cooked simply in butter and garlic. All of us unanimously thought that the garlic butter dish was the winner amongst the two. Imagine eating a prawn so fresh, that when you bite through its shell, its crunchy texture and juicy meat within bursts out a buttery gold liquid that are equal parts garlicky and d.i.v.i.n.e!
Without a doubt in my mind, these prawns are the freshest I’ve ever had. Ever. Bow down to the King of Prawns, Aor Kung Pao!
And then there was my first spicy love, tom yum soup. I had high hopes for the tom yum kung here given how the prawns were absolutely delicious. The tom yum kung was so good, after ordering two big bowls to share, I requested for a third! It wasn’t overpoweringly spicy, the lemongrass, galangal and kaffir leaves could be tasted so distinctively and fragrantly… I wish I could aptly describe how amazing it tasted. All the flavours from each herb, prawns and condiments blended so seamlessly and exquisitely together, this has got to be my favourite tom yum kung I’ve had to date.
So is there anything more to say then, just head over to Aor Kung Pao already?! Be ready to whip out your phone and point at the dishes you want cos nobody here speaks English! Enjoy, my foodie friends ☺️
Location: 346 Bang Nok Katung, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand 73130
Hours: Monday to Sunday: 10 am – 8 pm