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Austin restaurateurs pair up for new specialty Thai chicken concept

Austin restaurateurs pair up for new specialty Thai chicken concept

Mother Klucker menu items Austin
Kao mun gai, a popular Thai chicken and rice dish, rules the roost at the new ghost kitchen.   Courtesy of Mother Klucker

Austin’s newest Thai concept has a lot to crow about. Mother Klucker, a new ghost kitchen specializing in kao mun gai, the popular Southeast Asian poached chicken and rice dish, is now open for takeout and delivery service in Austin.

Mother Klucker, located at the Cloud Kitchens facility at 5610 N. IH-35, is a collaboration from two restaurateur neighbors working in the ghost-kitchen arena: chef Char Chongchitmate of newly opened Thai eatery Charoen Express and Bua Vanitsthian, co-owner of Chicken as Cluck, a Nashville-style hot chicken concept.

“We bonded over our love for kao mun gai,” Chongchitmate says, noting the dish is probably best known to Westerners simply as Thai chicken rice. “It just made sense with my Thai food background and Bua’s focus on chicken at her restaurant. Plus, we were already operating ghost kitchens in the same space.”

A variety of keto, lean, and veggie kao mun gai entrees are available, but in terms of the menu, the Iconic, a traditional kao mun gai dish, rules the roost at Mother Klucker. The chicken gets its extra juicy consistency from a salt massage and a 45-minute poach. Mother Klucker’s “fat rice,” rice cooked in chicken broth and chicken fat, imparts added flavor to the dish, which is served with cilantro, cucumber, and chicken broth.

But according to Chongchitmate, it’s Mother Klucker’s sauces that are particularly delicious.

“Die-hard chicken rice fans will tell you that it’s the sauce which makes or breaks a particular plate of kao mun gai,” he says, adding that all kao mun gai orders are served with Mother’s Lucky Sauce, a somewhat spicy blend of classic Thai flavors garlic, ginger, soybean paste, Thai chili, cilantro, and soy sauce. A sweet version of the sauce made with soybean and sugar is also available, with the addition of both sauces giving Mother Klucker’s kao mun gai a more traditional, balanced flavor combo.

Kao mun gai lovers have Chongchitmate’s mother to thank for inspiring the new concept. (His mother taught him her secrets for crafting the meal.) In fact, the recipe has strong family roots, having been passed down from Chongchitmate’s grandmother, who once made and sold kao mun gai in Thailand. 

With the goal of paying tribute to his mother with the dish, Chongchitmate first unveiled kao mun gai as a special at his Charoen Express. It was so popular, he decided to turn the menu item into a full-time ghost-kitchen concept.

Ghost kitchens have become more popular with restaurateurs in recent days, in part, because they don’t require the overhead of a traditional brick-and-mortar eatery. And in the time of COVID-19, when dining inside a restaurant can be considered risky behavior, ghost kitchens offer restaurateurs a viable alternative.   

Indeed, Chongchitmate, who previously worked at Austin eateries Thai Lada and Madam Mam’s, had originally planned to open his Charoen Express as a standalone restaurant, but when pandemic-related challenges made that option more difficult to pull off, he turned to the ghost-kitchen model, opening what he calls “the first Thai ghost kitchen in Texas” in December 2020.

“Without the option for guests to dine in, it only made sense to shift operations to delivery and takeout,” Chongchitmate previously said of Charoen Express’ opening. “With the number of ghost kitchens growing in Austin, we wanted to get ahead of the trend with Charoen Express.”

Chongchitmate’s newest ghost-kitchen concept, Mother Klucker, is currently offering online ordering with pickup service and delivery through Door Dash and Uber Eats.