Chef Kittikoon Chompupong has a long, strong relationship with Thai food. Living in Bangkok as a child, he helped his mother with her street food cart, and at age 14, he emigrated from Thailand to the U.S. and began working at his father’s Thai restaurant in Boston. It’s been nearly a decade since he opened the original Thip Thai Cuisine in Columbia, Missouri, to share his family’s traditions with local diners. The restaurant’s menu, locations and even its name have evolved, but Chompupong’s signature style of Thai cooking has been steadfast. At the newest location of Thip Thai Cuisine (now called Thip’s Asian Bistro), he presents a fusion of Thai influences, reaching across borders to cultivate a bouquet of Asian flavors.
What shaped your style of Thai cooking? I was always going back and forth between here and Thailand. My mom didn’t come here until I was in my 20s, so I went back to see her, and she taught me a lot. I’d also go to different streetside restaurants and learned by watching the families there. So I got some real training from real people. And being in the restaurant with my dad, he employed lots of different chefs; I picked up different styles of cooking [from them]. As I got older, I took all that and made it into my own style based on Thai food. I am kind of lucky that I [spent] most of my life here; I got to eat all the good food here in America and kind of incorporate it into Thai cooking – different cities, different ingredients and all that.
Explain the name “Thip.” Thip can mean angel or God – it’s [also] my mom’s first name. My mom passed away [last] June. I usually call her because she has good advice on how to make different dishes and all that, and until a week before she passed, I still asked her for recipes. I can’t call her anymore, but I still have her recipes and try to get as close as possible. The menu [for Thip’s Asian Bistro] is very close to my mom’s flavors; it’s more like home cooking.
What’s the story behind Double Noodle, one of your most popular dishes? There’s an older couple that comes in – the woman always orders yellow curry, the man always orders pad Thai. They like to share: She gives half of her food to him and he gives half of his food to her, so that they pretty much mix them together. At first I didn't realize they’d been doing that. One day they decided to ask [their] server if we could mix them together. I hesitated. It’s something I'd never thought of, but it was their request, so I put it together and added something extra too. I didn't know what to call it, so I asked the couple; they said to call it Double Noodle.
Thip’s Asian Bistro, 807. E. Walnut St., Columbia, Missouri, 573.507.6256, facebook.com/Thips-Asian-Bistro