The restaurant has been open for some 15 years, but owner Chun Lai took over the operation in 2001. Ever since, the family-owned and operated establishment has built up quite a reputation around Norman. University of Oklahoma students and professors frequent the restaurant, as do many other Norman residents. In fact, Lai claims that many students make it back to the restaurant after they leave Norman.
“Even after they graduate, when students come back for meetings or whatever else, they choose here,” he said.
Upon my first visit to the restaurant with a guest, I decided to go with dishes that I’m a little more familiar with. We started with chicken satay ($5.50) as an appetizer, and then split a cup of po-tak seafood soup ($5.50). The satay, broiled chicken on a skewer, was seasoned to perfection with Thai herbs, and paired nicely with the accompanying peanut-curry sauce. The soup was equally delicious, but had a much different mesh of flavors. The combination of seafood (oysters, fish and shrimp), lemongrass, lime, vegetables and spices provided for an exceptional taste. The soup was spicy, yet flavorful, and the variety of ingredients helped keep it from being overly simple.
above, Chicken pad Thai is the most popular dish at Thai Kumkoon.
For our entrées, we both went with curry dishes. I chose the panang curry with pork ($8.95), and my guest had the vegetarian curry ($7.95). I’ve always been a big curry fan, and this only added to that adoration.
The panang curry was especially flavorful and spicy, combining the meat, curry sauce, lime leaves, chili peppers and sweet basil. Poured over steamed, white rice, it made for a deliciously spicy experience. The vegetarian curry was just as tasty, although it was less spicy, and had similar ingredients, excluding the meat. Also served with steamed, white rice, this dish had more vegetables than the panang curry, allowing for more variety in flavor. The portions are large, and both of us left with to-go boxes filled nearly to the brim.
For my second visit, I decided I would just get takeout. This time I chose chicken po-piah ($4.75), essentially chicken spring rolls, for an appetizer. They were crispy and delicious, especially when dipped into the accompanying sweet and sour sauce.
entrée selection was something very new to me, phad phed catfish ($9).
This dish was somewhat similar to curry, but included green beans and a
surprisingly Southern ingredient: fried catfish. I had never tried
catfish in this kind of setting, but it was nothing short of fantastic.
The fish was cooked perfectly, and melded well with the green beans,
mild curry sauce and crisp basil leaves. Carrying out my order made no
difference in the taste or freshness of the food: It was just as good
this time as it was when I ate in the restaurant, and I had leftovers
for the next day.
Lai said that chicken pad Thai ($6.50)
is their most popular dish. He also was quick to mention their healthy
and vegetarian options.
“Some customers don’t like it too oily or too salty, and we can do that,” he said.
in a small shopping center, Thai Kumkoon might not catch most people’s
eyes. The inside of the establishment matches the outside and the
location — nothing too fancy. However, the small, somewhat dimly lit
restaurant gives off warm vibes, making for a very comfortable dining
experience. Upon both visits, the service was speedy and the staff was
friendly, helping contribute to the already cozy atmosphere.
Kumkoon also has a lunch buffet Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to
2:30 p.m. Lai said the food is not catered to anyone specifically, and
that anyone who enjoys Thai food would enjoy his restaurant.
“The food is good, and with a good price,” he said.
Photo by Mark Hancock
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aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or
service when appropriate.