I first heard of Aromkwan (official Facebook page) through a friend who was documenting his quarantine time after returning to Bangkok. On his 11th day, he posted on his Facebook this mysterious food delivery…
I thought the card was hilarious–knowing if I got a delivery like this I’d be passing it through a metal detector. For those who wanted to know what he got, he responded, “Fat. I got fat.”
Almost immediately my Facebook feed started filling up with pictures of clay pots filled with mounds of biryani, giant smoked pork knuckles, and other tasty temptations. My foodie friends were tempting me with their posts. Aromkwan looked very promising.
At the peak of our interest, my gal and I finally visited Aromkwan to try some of their popular dishes hot off the grill as well as learn about their story.
This Asian smokery differs greatly from its western counterparts. Expect biryani, not cornbread. You can also forget about mesquite or hickory-smoked meats. This smoker is fueled with tamarind, lychee, sugar cane, coconut husks, or longan wood.
For those who love bold flavors adapted from many cultures, Aromkwan will take your tastebuds on a rollercoaster ride you’ll never forget. The rollercoaster fan that I am, I’m ready to go again. Let me show you what I mean…buckle up!
A tale of two menus…
Aromkwan offers two menus. The delivery menu has their favorites served in family size 11-inch clay pots or single servings wrapped in banana leaf. The dine-in menu is brand new (being released in this article, in fact). This is the ultimate private dining feast and they are currently taking reservations for 1 table (minimum 6 guests and maximum of 10 guests) per night.
If you look at the menu, you’ll see this is quite a spread for 1,850 baht/person. What we experienced during our visit would best be characterized as a mini-feast in comparison. But there is some overlap with this menu and our experience will give you an idea of what they’re dishing out.
Note: They are able to adapt the menu to accommodate for food allergies or vegetarian preferences with advance notice.
We intend to revisit with friends to get the whole feast experience. There’s a lot on this dine-in menu that isn’t on their delivery menu that I want to try!
Walking in we were immediately greeted with 2 things, the smoky aromas from the cooking, and a fizzy welcome drink accompanied with a slice of tender Bak Kwa. This savory treat is a Chinese version of pork jerky. But rather than being chewy, this jerky is super tender as it’s made from pork belly and collar.
This welcome snack to chit-chat over is a collaboration between Aromkwan and Aroi PaPa. Handy info to know as once you’re tried it you’re going to want to know where you can order a bunch more of it!
Try a little tenderness…
To start we began with skewers of thick-cut ox tongue which was smoked for 9 hours until perfectly tender and then grilled. Topped with pickled garlic and peanut sauce, these smoky bite-sized starters simply melt in your mouth.
Bring on the feast!
Let’s call this feast what it is, a delicious mess. Instead of plate service, the table was laid out with banana leaves and then Chef Bank started bringing out various dishes and began to create a mound of food, explaining as he built.
The mound began with a base of smoked pork lard biryani (instead of ghee). To this, he added Asian Slaw, made with onions, shallots, coriander, saw-toothed parsley, tomatoes, and spicy peanut dressing. Spoonfuls of quail egg sambal and dollops of thin smoked curds (yogurt) were then added. Grilled bok choy seasoned with Kashmir chili, turmeric, and yogurt added some more greenery to the mix-up. Peppering this mess were bits of “evil garlic“, cloves of garlic prepared confit in lard, and chunks of smoked pork lard.
But the pièce de résistance was the smoked goat curry crowning the top. The goat originates from Min Buri and the leg was smoked for 5 hours before being braised for an additional 4 hours. This tender meat just falls off the bone. Ladles of tender meat, curry leaves, and gravy were ceremoniously deposited on the mountainous feast which began to steam.
Wings. That’s what’s missing…
As if that weren’t enough, Chef Banks decided to throw in some Sriracha Chicken Wings for good measure. Why not, right?
These wings are jumbo-sized. After being rubbed with their signature 14 spice base rub, the wings are sprayed with Sangsom, smoked, Sriracha glazed and smoked again. Fortunately, they’re also on the delivery menu so you can order them any time you like! Keep that in mind.
We finished our meal with something sweet. This cold-smoked chunk of watermelon dipped in vodka and sprinkled with assam boi plum powder was a refreshing and tangy treat to end the feast with.
If you’re dining in you can expect A LOT of food. Often that results in leftovers. Not to worry, they’re quite happy to put together an eco-friendly takeaway pack for you. Our leftovers were wrapped in banana leaves, placed in a clay pot, and wrapped in cloth (no threatening message attached).
Aromkwan — A love story…
Aromkwan is a love story involving Chef “Bank” Vishnu Bernard Beng’s three loves. His love for his gal, and partner of 4 years, Por (pictured on left). The love he feels when he’s barbecuing, be it grilling or smoking. Finally, his third love, “The Bong“, his trusty, hardworking smoker that he has learned to love and understand over the years.
Looking at Chef Bank’s full name you’ve probably guessed that he has a lot of cultural influences. You’d be right. His mother is Thai/Chinese and his father is Malaysian/Indian. Chef Bank was born in Bangkok but left when he was 10 years old to be educated in Kuala Lumpur. At the age of 17, he started working in the F&B industry as a dishwasher and worked his way up through other roles in the kitchen.
Turning 21 years old, he returned to Bangkok and worked at various fine dining restaurants and hotels (where he met Por). Stockily built, he often found himself working the kitchen’s main cooking line area–his favorite position was on the grill and barbecuing. His love for smoking and grilling grew and he decided to take his skills on the road on days that he had off…
Aromkwan is born…
Aromkwan officially started on December 17, 2019, at a pop-up event at the Blue Parrot. This is when “The Bong” was made mobile and Chef Bank was hitting the pop-ups. If you dine-in the truck will be the first thing you’ll see. It’s now parked inside and guests can enjoy their welcome drinks and bak kwa on palates where grills and smokers were once mounted.
Aromkwan quickly gained popularity and along with the pop-ups that he was doing, Chef Bank was approached to start providing the bar snack menu for one popular upscale Bangkok cocktail lounge. Things were definitely looking up. Then COVID-19 happened.
Like many in the F&B industry, Chef Bank was also affected by the restrictions that were shutting down or restricting restaurants and bars in Bangkok. Fortunately, his experience building Aromkwan gave him something to fall back on. He shifted gears, parking his truck and moving The Bong inside, effectively transitioning his business model to delivery.
Aromkwan was gaining traction as a delivery service but Chef Bank was missing the face-to-face interaction with happy customers. Opening a table on the premises where customers can enjoy the range of his barbecuing fills that void. From now until their grand opening on April 17th, they are discreetly taking reservations for dine-in for groups of a minimum of 6 guests and a maximum of 10 guests. Simply message them directly on their Facebook page.
In the mood…
Loosely translated from Thai, “Aromkwan” combines “smoke” and “mood or emotion”. For Chef Bank it’s not just the mood you get from smoking, but the satisfaction you receive from understanding the personality of your smoker to the point that you achieve consistent delicious results. He believes that “food doesn’t need to be too much effort to prepare, but the process has to be perfected.”
Chef Bank and Por feel that Aromkwan is a tribute to both of their grandmothers (whose recipes are lovingly adapted in their dishes), and so this endeavor is anchored to heartfelt emotions. It’s their hope that those who dine-in will feel that “they are at home“, and that “it’s a place full of love.”
I’m hungry. Where is it?
As mentioned, Aromkwan has a single table available for guests (minimum 6/maximum 10) for dine-in Tuesday through Sunday. So you can expect there to be a waitlist the longer you wait, and for the weekend dates to fill up quickly. Located on Sukhumvit 49, the Google Map below will get you there.
But while you’re waiting, why not order some for delivery? Many of their dishes come in single-serve sizes wrapped in banana leaves or for a good value and plenty of leftovers a family size 11-inch clay pot.
For early birds, Chef Bank and Por would also like to welcome you to their grand opening event which will occur on April 17th, 2021 at 06:00 in the morning. This will entail an alms-giving ceremony and blessing by local monks. Make sure to wish Por a Happy Birthday on that day!
I want to hear from you!
Should you decide to experience Aromkwan either by dine-in or delivery, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comment section below, directly to me, or via message on either the Chow Traveller Facebook page or Chow Traveller Instagram (and feel free to like/follow these pages if you want to learn about more foodie gems). However you choose to reach out, I’d love to hear from you!