Slurrp Exclusive: Chef Manish Thapa On How He Adds A Bit Of Pop In His Thai Fare
Image Credit: POP Thai | Chef Manish Thapa On How He Adds A Bit Of Pop In His Thai Fare

The capital cannot get enough of Thai, and the many Thai restaurants and cloud kitchens are proof. We can not only tell our Pad Thai from noodles, Thai curries from other coconut-milk-based stews, but curry pastes and other Thai condiments have also reached our refrigerators now. When we sampled the food from Pop Thai, we were convinced that this isn’t a run-of-the-mill fare. From the dumplings to desserts, a touch of innovation dominates every dish, We started with the delicious prawn doughnuts. If your Medu Vadas were to be made of minced and crushed prawns, they may look like these toothsome doughnuts. Paired with chilly sauce, they made for an excellent starter, the next thing on our plate was the Midnight, chilli oil dumpling. The purple-coloured dumplings come with a generous chicken filling and a dry, chilli oil topping. The chicken sliders strike a vision too, and are a must-try. In the mains, you must not miss their pink fried rice, soothing Thai red curry and Pad Thai. We rounded our meal with sweet dumplings made of rice flour, filled with Nutella. The dumplings or ‘pillows’ as they call them come topped with desiccated coconut, a delicious touch indeed.

We also sat down for a chat with Head Chef Manish Thapa about the menu, where he got candid about their inspiration, preparation and everything in between. Excerpts.

1. Talk to us about Pop Thai

POP THAI, as the name suggests, in simple words we add a bit of pop in Thai dishes. A perfect mix of authenticity and contemporary modernity but eliminates any kind of intimidation for our customers. The brand is the brainchild of Mr Pratinav and it takes popular Thai cuisine and deconstructs it to curate dishes is an innovative pop avatar without compromising on the authentic Thai taste. Our style of cooking is extremely authentic but our presentation is contemporary modern. I think our trial phase was probably the most extensive process that we had to go through, we cooked around 150+ dishes and then deduced them further to curate this final menu. Beyond the food, the brand is extremely cautious when it comes to its packaging and has tried its best to keep everything sustainable. Here at POP THAI, we aren't afraid to innovate and curate dishes, but we stick to the authentic taste and style of cooking. It is important to have a bit of fun, our Prawn Donuts & POP Brunt Garlic Pink Rice has already become a hit amongst the customers. We aren't trying to hold any ground, just aiming to shake up things a little.

2. Your menu is very extensive, which are the dishes you are proud of.

Everyone is spoilt for choices with our menu. It is extremely difficult to pick any dish but I have to say that Prawn Donuts & Katsu Curry are two dishes that I am extremely proud of on a personal level. We make our Katsu curry in-house from the scratch. Additionally, Tom yum & Edamame fried rice, Pad Thai noodle and our Thai Red curry would be next on the list.

3. We see you have kept a lot of your dishes very colourful and 'Insta-worthy' for instance the pink fried rice and the dimsums, a conscious choice?

Honestly, Thai food in itself is so colourful and we had to add a bit of pop in our signature dishes. Pink Rice was definitely a conscious choice but it was risky as well, it paid off well and is immensely loved. We have customers just ordering 3-4 portions of it also if they have a gathering at their home. Where else, we have taken some colours from the Thailand flag and added their blue in our Midnight chilli oil chicken dumpling and the red in our Red curry mushroom n water chestnut dumpling. We do not use any food colouring for any of our dishes.

4. What is your comfort food?

I personally love Chinese food and I love cooking that too. So, Thai pepper Hakka noodle, sliced chicken in black bean & basil and my personal favourite from our menu is Bangkok char-grilled chicken satay and Grilled sesame chilli beans.

5. Three tips to cook the perfect Thai Curry

Most importantly is the ingredient used in making the paste, at POP THAI, our Thai curry pastes are completely handmade and take the team at least a day to prepare, which is tedious but making the curry gets easier. Secondly, perfect measurement of the ingredients is probably the toughest part of it. Lastly, I would say the thickness of the curry. The city is so used to the commercialised Thai curries but our consistency is a little more diluted, for some customers it is not thick enough but we stick to the traditional way. 

6. More and more people are cooking authentic Asian food at home now. What are the 3 tools you suggest they should always have alongside them

There are so many alternatives in the supermarket with such diverse options for ready to cook meals but a good wok pan and a chopper knife at home will always come in handy if someone decides to cook Thai food.

7. An ingredient that can make or break the dish according to you?

I will keep this simple, probably Salt can make or break the dish. If you are cooking Thai food then the type of chilli you use could probably change the taste and colour of a lot of your dishes. Also, the way you chop the vegetables, onion, meat etc and its size can completely change a dish. Most importantly don't forget to have fun alongside, that's probably the most important ingredient here.

8. A word of advice for budding chefs

Make food with love, trust me it does taste better. Don't be afraid to experiment with ingredients. That is one thing I have learned at POP THAI. We have had so much freedom during our trial phase to make break and deconstruct so many dishes, it was quite liberating as a chef to have that kind of freedom. If someone is entering a commercial kitchen or running a kitchen from home, it's extremely important to maintain the kitchen hygiene and temperature standard.