New-old Thai at Bua

By Korea Herald

Rotis and other classic eats at Itaewon spot

  • Published : Feb 14, 2014 - 19:40
  • Updated : Feb 14, 2014 - 19:40
Bua’s khao pad nam prik num with fried pork incorporates the northern Thai green chili paste into a fried rice dish. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

At Bua, a modern Thai restaurant that opened near Itaewon Station in November, one might blink twice at items like roti and nam prik num with fried pork.

While both eats may not be as well known outside of Thailand as dishes like pad thai and som tam, Bua owner-chef Kim Yoo-ah says both are Thai staples, easily found throughout the country.

“I wanted to introduce people here to new dishes,” Kim, 28, said, keen on showcasing dishes that might be novel to some diners in the city but are actually very familiar to Thais.

Kim first fell in love with Thai cuisine when she was working in the jewelry industry. Frequent business trips to Bangkok led to a newfound passion for the city’s food.

Soon Kim was busy shifting gears and getting ready to open her own Thai restaurant, a project that was three years in the making.

Kim traveled to Thailand around eight times a year and also took a royal Thai cuisine course and another culinary course there. Then over three months ago, she opened her own 22-seat space in Itaewon-dong.

At Bua, which means “lotus” in Thai, Kim and her crew serve up traditional Thai cuisine, including some royal Thai dishes, while adding a modern twist to how the food is presented.

Eats include roti, a flaky coil of dough pan-fried to outer crispness, which can be ordered as a side dish or with a sweet pork green curry.

Kim explained how the savory Thai roti is a classic flatbread, a multilayered, slightly pastry-like bread customarily eaten by being dipped, piece by piece, in curry.

For another dish, khao pad nam prik num with fried pork, Kim showcases a northern Thai condiment, nam prik num, which is a spicy paste crafted from green chilies and often eaten as a dip for fried pork rinds called khaep mu.

At Bua, Kim incorporates the paste into fried rice, a variation on the paste-pork trio she saw in Thailand, for an eye-watering, chili-inflected meal that is only slightly mitigated by the accompanying uber-crisp, almost jerky-like fried pork, a nod, says Kim, to the crunchy khaep mu usually eaten with the paste.

Kim says she and her crew make everything from scratch, from the roti dough to the curries and sauces and pastes, which is achieved by grinding herbs and spices with a pestle and mortar.

Plans are to expand upon her current repertoire in the near future.

“I plan to add two more curries including a special curry that changes weekly,” said Kim. 

Bua, a modern Thai restaurant in Itaewon-dong, specializes in traditional Thai cuisine such as roti with green curry. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
2F, 130-5 Itaewon-dong,

Yongsan-gu, Seoul

(02) 792-3340

Open 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, closed Mondays

Dishes cost 7,000 won to 25,000 won, side dishes cost 1,500 won to 3,000 won, desserts cost 4,000 won to 4,500 won

By Jean Oh (