Goat kuruma curry and more at Yusup Pochana

Yusup Pochana, southern Thai food in north Bangkok

Among popular southern Thai foods, massuman curry is probably the most well-known, and famous overseas too thanks to its mildness and sweetness. A few know the Thai-style biryani disk of khao mok, a mound of yellow rice topped with a chunk of chicken, beef, fish or goat. But the much rarer – in Bangkok at least – kuruma curry hardly gets a look in. At Yusup Pochana restaurant in northern Bangkok, however, things get flipped on their head and the goat kuruma (185 baht) is the star of the show.

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Goat kuruma at Yusup Pochana, southern Thai food in north Bangkok

As a result of its use of a complex mix of dried spices and fresh herbs that hints at foreign origin – cumin, turmeric and, I’m pretty sure, some cloves – kuruma is variously described as the Thai equivalent of an Indian korma (the linguistic connection is evident) or vindaloo, but in all honesty this dish tasted closer to a masala. Deliciously thick and gravy-like, the presence of dried spices mean it loses the thin, smooth, soup-like consistency associated with other curries. Instead, every mouthful has the slightly grainy texture of a thousand spices pounded into one – and to fantastic effect.

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Beef massuman at Yusup Pochana, southern Thai food in north Bangkok

The goat, a huge chunk swimming in the centre of the curry base, is just about on the bone, but so tender is it that a few pieces have already fallen off into the soup when the dish arrives; the rest tears off with wonderful ease. Aside from a few pieces of deep-fried shallot and garlic by way of a garnish, the kuruma is entirely lacking in the vegetable department, nothing but tender meat in a thick coconut soup brimming with the redolence of spice.

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Goat kuruma and beef massuman at Yusup Pochana, southern Thai food in north Bangkok

The same is true of the massuman, which even omits the common addition of peanuts for extra bite. Yet in the same way as the kuruma, it manages the perfect consistency thanks to the use of heaps of Indian spices – the odd whole cardamom pod that remains floating in the soup is a pointer to the love that has gone into making it. Both curries, the massuman especially, have a pleasing and enticing layer of oil on top, just as every good Thai curry ought to.

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Khao mok gai at Yusup Pochana, southern Thai food in north Bangkok

The beef in the massuman (80 baht), again a sizeable chunk, is tender on the outside but slightly chewy in the middle, and in places seems somewhat overcooked. I am in two minds as to whether I like the small charred pieces, thinking it might even add some flavour, but my friend is definitely not a fan. As well as being deeply flavoured from the spices, the curry itself is sweet and incredibly rich, but manages to just stay on the tightrope that is the balance between creaminess and oiliness. This is a real contender for the massuman at Ibrahim restaurant in Krabi’s town market.

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Yusup Pochana, southern Thai food in north Bangkok

Our khao mok gai chicken biryani (50 baht, 85 for extra-large), however, is decidedly average. We have come late in the day and they are sold out of my preferred khao mok neua with beef (85 baht, 130 for extra-large), but all the same I have come with high expectations on the biryani front. Photos I have seen of Yusup‘s take on the dish even led me to believe that it might be the more traditionally Indian version of the dish I have had in Singapore and Malaysia, where raisins and cashew nuts are regularly thrown into the mix, but in fact this is very much the run-of-the-mill Thai adaption. That in itself is not a bad thing, but this dish is pleasant but unremarkable. I suspect it is better first thing in the morning while still fresh and warm, but for now my preference remains for the biryani at Areesa Rote Dee.

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Soup gai at Yusup Pochana, southern Thai food in north Bangkok

We also order a bowl of soup gai, a simple chicken soup – I eat this dish infrequently, but this is a pleasing rendition with a large chicken drumstick submerged in sour, moderately spicy stock with plenty of spring onion. Yusup has a fairly extensive menu of southern specialities including chicken and beef satay, meat-stuffed mataba pancakes and samosas as well as thin roti to accompany curry as a rice alternative.

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Yusup Pochana, southern Thai food in north Bangkok

With around thirty tables, the setup is similar to that at Areesa Rote Dee in that different dishes – biryanis, curries, satay, noodles and so on – are prepared at different stations that surround the dining area. The restaurant is best visited at the weekend, since this is the only time the goat-studded star curries are available; goat biryani is available on Tuesdays, but for the rest of the week your choices are down to chicken, beef or fish. Despite an apparent closing time of 3pm, on our Sunday visit they were still welcoming new customers around ten minutes before this.

Yusup Pochana, southern Thai food in north Bangkok

I am always reluctant to say that the best way to get somewhere is by taxi, but in this case that may well be the truth – the closest you can get by Skytrain is Mo Chit, and there didn’t appear to be any buses plying the route. You could potentially catch bus 178 from The Mall Bangkapi or Big C Lad Phrao and take it all the way to the end of the line at Me Yo hospital, before hailing a cab from there. The restaurant is on Kaset-Nawamin Road, also known in parts as Prasert-Manukit Road; this major highway has concrete pillars running down the middle, and the restaurant is located next to pillar number 97. There is no English-language signage, but you’ll see a number of restaurants located on a raised platform over grassland below; enter via a bridged walkway.

531/12 Kaset-Nawamin Road, Lat Yao; 081 659 6588
Daily, 8.30am-3.00pm – closed the third Monday and Tuesday of the month

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