When Songkran Thai Grill opened in Sugar Land, Executive Chef Junnajet “Jett” Hurapan thought it would be an exact copy of his original Houston location. Instead, he changed the restaurant’s name, menu and prices this year to attract a more casual and family-friendly clientele.
“People in Sugar Land come to us because they see us as a high-end restaurant,” Hurapan said. “So we said to ourselves, ‘how can we cater to Sugar Land families?’”
Formerly Songkran Thai Kitchen, the business specializes in traditional Thai and street food staples. The restaurant offers cheaper, commercial Thai recipes, Hurapan said.
“Street food is … you don’t have to really finesse too much,” he said. “You bring out the bold flavor, and that’s it.”
Some of the new dishes include grilled calamari, barbeque chicken, sizzling hot plates, papaya salad and a children’s menu. General Manager Niki Vu said the children’s meals are served in a bento box arrangement because children may prefer items not to touch.
“I have [customers] thanking me for the fact that we actually have a kids’ menu now, and that their kids are exploring new food items through that,” Vu said.
Songkran Thai Grill is one of the smaller restaurants at which she has worked. One of her favorite dishes is the Son-In-Law eggs.
“They’re hard-boiled eggs that are deep-fried, and they’re covered in a tamarind and chili sauce,” she said.
Thai cooking uses basic ingredients such as coconut milk, lemongrass and palm sugar. Hurapan said ingredients are easy to find because Thailand and Houston have similar climates.
He moved to the U.S. from Thailand when he was six years old and comes from a family of cooks. He went to culinary school in New York and moved to Houston in 2007 to consult for the now-closed Gigi’s Asian Bistro.
He left Gigi’s in 2011, though not before meeting his wife, Jira, a pastry chef who now works at Songkran. He opened BLU Restaurant and Lounge with Amy and Jiten Karnani in Sugar Land, next door to where Songkran is now.
Songkran Thai Grill is a call back to Hurapan’s roots. For the Sugar Land restaurant’s first anniversary this year, Hurapan said he brought a monk from a Buddhist temple to bless the establishment—which is also how he opened the restaurant.
“My job is to take the old world food and bring it back so that people know Thai food is more than just curry or spicy,” he said.
The next step is a third location—Songkran Thai Express in the downtown tunnels for Houston’s business clientele. Hurapan said many of his Sugar Land customers work in downtown Houston.
“We’re probably going to open up in the next four months,” he said.