This Isaan eatery channels portion of profits back to its community

PenLaos Signature Grilled Chicken.
PenLaos Signature Grilled Chicken.PHOTOS: YEOH WEE TECK

(THE NEW PAPER) - There are so many Thai eateries here, a new player needs a fresh story to tell. Un-Yang-Kor-Dai has one. It opened in Singapore in early May, offering Isaan cuisine, which originates from north-eastern Thailand and is famous for its spiciness.

That Un-Yang-Kor-Dai brands itself as a community restaurant makes it interesting.

At its original outlet in Khao Yai, Thailand, the restaurant works within the community to provide employment and business, and funnels its profits back to the needy. A percentage of the earnings from the outlet here will also return to Khao Yai to help its residents.

This is a win-win as the food is delicious and the community benefits.

The PenLaos Signature Grilled Chicken (from $12) was delicious.

It was a simple roasted chicken that turned out better than I hoped. The chicken was tender and juicy, and although it had been marinated in a mix of white peppercorn and fresh coriander for three days, there is only a hint of heat - more of a suggestion than a strong presence.


Grilled Pork Neck. PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK

Also good was the Grilled Pork Neck ($12.90). The pork was sliced thin, but it was not dry.

My dining companions raved about the housemade signature Isaan spicy dip made from tamarind sauce, cilantro and chilli powder. While adequate, I felt it did not add much to the dish. The pork on its own was fine.


 Stir-Fried Lobster with Salted Egg Sauce. PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK

The Stir-Fried Lobster with Salted Egg Sauce ($78) was an oddity for me. It was the most expensive dish in a restaurant that is more cosy than fancy. And while there are dishes that a salted egg sauce can elevate, this overwhelms the sweetness of the meat.


 Som Tum Thai Kai Kung Sod. PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK

I would forget about this and focus instead on the wallet- and taste friendly offerings, such as the classic Som Tum Thai Kai Kung Sod, or papaya salad ($13.50).

As it is an Isaan restaurant, I was afraid the salad would be too spicy, but this version did not stray from the usual flavour profile - sweet, spicy and tart - and the firm prawns helped set it apart.


Thai milk tea pudding. PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK

I have a weakness for Thai milk tea, and the pudding version ($5.50) at Un-Yang-Kor-Dai was a worthy substitute.

It was creamy, rich and surprisingly, not too sweet.