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Central Florida Natives Bring Authentic Thai Tastes to Orlando

By Matt Pelc:

It’s not often that you take the first bite of a meal from a new restaurant and immediately fall in love. This is what’s called love at first bite, and it’s something that will keep you coming back time and time again to that establishment. Love at first bite is a common occurrence when visiting a little pop-up restaurant that is turning heads.

There’s plenty of places to enjoy Thai food in Orlando, but there’s very few that bring the authentic tastes of Thailand to the City Beautiful. That’s precisely what you get when you visit one of the area’s most popular pop-up restaurants, Bangrak Thai Street Kitchen.

Bangrak Thai Street Kitchen
Bangrak Thai Street Kitchen

Created by a pair of Central Florida natives over a year ago, Bangrak initially catered home-based dinner events with non-traditional and unique Thai food. The founders decided to expand the business to capitalize on the ever-growing pop-up movement and set up their first event at Winter Park’s Swine & Sons in October.

It was an immediate hit with patrons, which allowed them to follow up the inaugural event with subsequent appearances. Each event has upped the ante over the previous one in both culinary offerings and attendance from glowing word-of-mouth recommendations.

Dylan (left) Jordan (right)
Dylan (left) Jordan (right)

Bangrak Thai Street Kitchen will move to a different venue for their next event on Saturday, March 18. Orlando’s Redlight Redlight will host the pop-up beginning at 6:00 p.m. where hungry patrons will enjoy many culinary delights, including the signature dish, Som Tam Lao. This Laos-style papaya salad is dressed in fermented fish sauce with chilies and whole freshwater crab.

This mouthwatering dish, and all of the others, would be unavailable in the Orlando-area if not for the travels of Bangrak’s founders, Dylan Eitharong, 25, and Jordan Neumann, 26. The pair take weekly or longer tours in Thailand in order to sample cuisine. Although many Thai restaurants stateside do their best to emulate the popular dishes from Thailand, Dylan and Jordan pay careful attention to the ingredients, how the dishes are made, and other various elements that make true Thai dishes stand out from Americanized versions.

Dylan’s passion for Thai cuisine comes from his heritage since he’s half-Thai. Four generations on his paternal side hail from the southeastern Asian country, and his father came to the U.S. as an immigrant in 1969. Born in Orlando, Dylan naturally grew up eating classic American cuisine, however, he was always drawn to ethnic cuisine, particularly Thai food, which he began cooking in middle school. This passion led to a career, and he’s spent the last five years fine-tuning his skills as a dedicated chef to the delight of his family, friends, and customers.

Dylan’s partnership with Jordan makes perfect sense. Jordan also thoroughly enjoys experiencing new and different food cultures, and creating innovative dishes to the delight of his patrons. He’s particularly passionate about Indian cuisine, which contains many similarities to Thai food. It also contains enough differences to create a unique culinary adventure to allow him to flex his cooking muscle. Born in Lakeland, Jordan is a Naan bread connoisseur.

Americans have been enjoying Asian cuisine for several generations. Immigrants from the Far East began coming into the U.S. in the mid-19th Century to work in railroading, mining, and other industries mainly located along the West Coast. Thai-themed restaurants began to open in the post-World War II-era of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Although this ethnic cuisine has been around for as long as anyone can remember, it doesn’t mean that innovations can’t be made. This is the approach Dylan and Jordan have taken when creating and recreating their menu for each pop-up event. They want you to enjoy your favorites, but also want you to experience something a little different which could become your new favorite dish.

To learn more about Dylan, Jordan, and their pop-up Thai cuisine business, visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/pg/bangrakthaistreetkitchen. You’ll also be able to be updated when the pop-up will be appearing around the Orlando area beyond this Saturday’s event.

Sam Tam Lao (crab not served as pictured)
Sam Tam Lao (crab not served as pictured)