When Thai Peacock owner Chookiat “Ham” Saenguraiporn was a kid growing up in Bangkok, it was always a treat to get khao moo dang. At shops and stalls around Thailand, chefs would thinly slice pork and crispy belly to serve with rice, slathering the top with a fragrant sauce and adding a hard-boiled egg and Chinese sausage for good measure. It was a visceral childhood memory, one that was hard to recreate in Portland: Not many Thai restaurants in the city sell a version of this dish. But when chatting with his friends Sitthisak “Nuii” Phoonkwan and Kanik “Song” Charoendee, they shared a similar nostalgia, and fantasized about opening their own khao moo dang shop.
Now, they have: Khao Moo Dang began serving its namesake dish on SE Hawthorne last weekend. The Thai restaurant currently has a small menu of Thai pork dishes, including ba-mhee haang and ba-mhee nam; the dishes combine the same five-spice pork loin and crispy pork belly with pork dumplings and noodles, served either in a pork-based broth or with that soup on the side. Down the line, the team will expand the menu, but for now, those three dishes are the extent of it, with non-alcoholic drink options like Thai iced tea. As early as this weekend, the team at Khao Moo Dang will start offering a handful of cocktails, like a tamarind whiskey sour and a lotus-syrup-infused margarita.
When the Chiang Mai space opened up, Saenguraiporn jumped on it, hoping to transform the restaurant into a Thai-meets-Portland cafe with midcentury vibes. “There are a lot of Thai people who grew up here in America,” Saenguraiporn says. “That’s what we want to be: Thai that grew up in America. That’s the whole idea behind the design.” Khao Moo Dang is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 3145 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Explore the full menu, which should be available within the next week, below.
Update: December 5, 2019, at 11:36 a.m.
This story has been updated to include the new menu and to show that the restaurant has opened.