Yi Peng Brings Chef-Led Thai Cuisine to CityCentre

Chef de Cuisine Jira and Executive Chef Jett Hurapan

Finding Thai cuisine — good Thai cuisine — can be a challenge in Houston, but a new restaurant in CityCentre seeks to change all that. Named after the famous full moon lantern festival that takes place in the Northern Thai capital of Chiang Mai each year, Yi Peng Thai Dining distinguishes itself as destination led by not just one, but two Thai chefs: executive chef Junnajet "Jett" Hurapan his wife, and chef de cuisine Jira Hurapan.


What's remarkable is the way in which the two chef's expertise and styles complement each other. Chef Jett brings experience setting up restaurants and running kitchens: Brought up in his father's restaurant, he served as corporate chef for the New York-based BR Guest hospitality firm for a decade before moving to Houston, where he was a consulting chef for Gigi Huang at Gigi's Asian Kitchen in the Galleria (now closed), and an executive chef and partner at Songkran Thai Kitchen in Uptown Park.

Chef Jira, a trained pastry chef who studied culinary arts at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, brings the authenticity. For the last several years, she has been making culinary pilgrimages to Thailand to learn Thai traditions under Professor Srisamorn Kongpun, an expert in Thai cuisine and author of more than 24 cooks on the subject, including the The Complete Thai Cookbook.

Khao Niew Mamuang — sweet mango, butterfly-pea sticky rice and coconut-milk ice cream — at Yi Peng

Together, the husband-and-wife duo are a culinary dream team, turning out deftly executed dishes with true Thai flavors. A dish of pu krob crispy softshell crab, glazed to perfection with Thai chili glaze, is masterful in its execution — utterly light and delicate, but crispy all at once — like something you'd have while vacationing in a Thai coastal city of Phuket.

Meanwhile, dishes like the house-made Sai ua sausage, made with chicken, shrimp, and crabmeat with lemongrass and Thai spices, or the hard-to-find khao soi — Chiang Mai's famous curry noodle — transport you to the street food stalls of Chiang Mai.

Designed to appeal to a wide audience, with direct online ordering available for easy takeout, the menu is extensive, with a full range of appetizers, salads, mains, and sides, with special menu sections dedicated to curry, noodles and rice.

Chef's table

Must-try items include the kang hung lay Northern-style braised curry beef short ribs; garlic roasted king crab legs with spicy Thai seafood dipping sauce; and pad ped pla-dook, a wok stir-fried catfish with long beans and lime leaves, and green peppercorn.

Desserts, like the mango with butterfly pea-infused sticky rice, are also delightful, as are the cocktails, which are given fun names like High Thai, Captain Coco, and Tuk Tuk. For teens and those who want to enjoy a cocktail experience sans alcohol, Yi Peng's also boasts a fabulous mocktail menu.

"We opened Yi Peng to serve the neighborhood, but our menu invites people from all across the city to just come and enjoy," Jett says. "You can bring friends or family and order family-style to share. You can come and do a full noodle tasting, or just come in by yourself for a noodle or rice dish, or do takeout. We are excited to be here and excited to share our version of Thai cooking."

Food

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Abbie Preston Edmonson gives a special presentation this weekend

DESPITE SOME APRIL showers, there's still plenty of fun to be had! From art-centric and Earth Day activities to family-friendly fests, check out a rundown of the weekend's best bets.

LEARN FROM AN ARTIST Tune in tonight for an hour-long talk by ceramicist and Houston Center for Contemporary Craft resident artist Abbie Preston Edmonson about her creative process. She'll give a virtual presentation about her work and a special demonstration in her studio space.

Brennen's exec chef Joey Chavez (photo by Kimberly Park)

TAKE A VIRTUAL PAINTING LESSON OR COOKING CLASS Be inspired by the great state of Texas during a virtual painting lesson hosted by Honey Art Cafe on Friday night. For only $20, stream a two-hour virtual lesson and make a series of stylized mini paintings inspired by West Texas and Big Bend National Park. Honey Art Cafe also has supply kits available for purchase for beginners or artists low on supplies.

And if painting isn't quite your speed, see what you can cook up in the kitchen! Brennen's exec chef Joey Chavez leads a "date night" cooking lesson for couples on Friday at 6:30pm. Hosted at the restaurant, the socially distanced demonstration, which costs $150, includes a reception, followed by an interactive demonstration and seated dinner.

CELEBRATE EARTH DAY! Join the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center from 10am-4pm on Saturday for a fun- and information-filled day! Explore informative booths, nature hikes, fun displays in the Discovery Room, and Earth-friendly take-home activities. Or join Discovery Green on Sunday from 12-5pm, when the park will screen a series of short films about Houston's environment, host a panel about February's freeze, and showcase a live painting demo by local artists working on murals to decorate the park.

GO ON AN OUT-OF-THIS WORLD ADVENTURE Fifty-one years ago, the Apollo 13 crew splashed down safely back on Earth after their famously harrowing mission to the moon and back. Space Center Houston is celebrating that anniversary on Saturday, hosting two livestreamed panel discussions with current NASA experts as well as Apollo-era legends.And now through May 2, local NASA and Apollo 13 fans can check out the center's new spring exhibition, titled "Apollo: When We Went to the Moon," that looks at the legacy of the Apollo era through the lens of the engineers and astronauts who actually lived the experience.

FIND FUN AT THE INTERNATIONAL KIDS FEST Traders Village hosts Kids Fest on Sunday, with games, activities, interactive shows, live music, acrobats, magicians, clowns and more. Parking is $5, but the event itself is free, sure to keep the whole family entertained from 12-4pm.

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