Thai Street Food at Kakaku Elephant Shack

Roll With It is a Frolic series about the food trucks we’ve seen outside. We track them and try dishes to give you a 4-1-1.

Clockwise from top left: Minced basil soybean chicken on rice, drunk pad kee mau noodles, gong nam gong prawns brik pao and stir-fried vegetables, green papaya salad. Photo: Mary Taketa

aA quick look at Elephant Shack’s menu and the theme is clear: It’s Thai street food, and the kind and office workers from Nong Khai to Bangkok dig in with spoon and fork. These are the dishes we draw attention to, broad rice noodles twined with basil and polished with soybeans and palm sugar, and rice crowned with ground beef crowned with fried eggs. This truck turned out to be one of three locations, the others in Laie and Sunset Beach on North Shore, where the owner, Kevin Sutavee, moved from New York City because he wanted to surf. This home rule across from O’ahu explains why Elephant Shack in Kaka’ako isn’t open until 6 p.m. Sutavee’s half-Thai heritage, and his particular penchant for street-level Thai dishes, fresh and quickly cooked, are what drive the menu choices.

Elephant Shack Kakaku Computer Marie Taketa

Find Elephant Shack at the back of a small car park across from Hana Koa Brewing. Photo: Mary Taketa

food menu

In a glance:

Wok fried noodles classics like pad thai and pad see ew, protein and vegetable stir fries, wok fried rice, and many more vegetarian options. Lighter meat options include grilled steak marinated with fresh herbs and lemon juice, and the classic Laotian Thai grub of citrusy minced chicken with onions and herbs. Karian is green and panang, the latter exceptionally sweet and creamy coconut with a long hint of chile spice.

SEE ALSO: Chinatown’s Best Hidden Courtyard Is A Laotian Thai Gem

What you won’t find: Stuffed chicken wings, spring or summer rolls or tom yum gong (spicy soup is a special at times). Elephant Shack is a solo show, assisted by Sutavee the lone chef and his wife. And you won’t find Thai-style spices, which can numb your tongue and make you sweat where you didn’t know you could. After 10 years of cooking for local dishes, spices are one aspect of the Thai flavor spectrum that has been toned down.

We recommend:

Elephant Shack Noodles Drunk Plain Kee Mao Computer Marie Takita

Bad Kee Mau. Photo: Mary Taketa

Bad Ki Mao, $16.50. Wide (1.5 inch) rice noodles are a chewy treat that enhances and extends the deep flavors of soy sugar and palm sugar. A generous handful of fresh basil leaves wilt in the hot skillet and capture these flavors. Protein is your choice of shrimp, chicken or tofu; Or you can choose all vegetables.

Elephant Shack Cabo 2 Pieces Marie Takita

Capo. Photo: Mary Taketa

capo, $16. Similar flavors punctuate an endless pile of fried minced chicken, basil, and long beans that beg for heaps of spoonfuls mixed with jasmine rice underneath. Frying in a pan results in an egg with crunchy edges and a liquid yolk. The whole effect is similar to thai moco.

som tom papaya salad, $9. Splashes of chile sparse make this the least spicy version we’ve tried. It’s basic, but the crunchy, slightly acidic green papaya strands lighten the deeper, richer tones of other dishes and are a good complement.

These are our favorite seven-course dishes over two visits. While we get our second order, Sutavee recommends grilled marinated chicken yum gai yang with green papaya, tomatoes, and herbs with a lemon-lime-cilantro sauce over rice. We’ll eat it next time.

how to roll

  • where: 971 Kawaiahao Street, opposite Hana Koa Brewing Co.
  • When: daily from 6 to 10 pm
  • Pre-orders: Specify the time of receipt; The truck sends up-to-date notifications when your order is ready.
  • Pay: Connected
  • Follow: Tweet embed

keep it rolling’:

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