Get ready to meet the dynamic duo of dumplings – Chef Chalermrat (Kook) Pongngarmsanga and his wife Jocelyn! Together, they are taking on a mission to build a dumpling empire! What started as a dream has now turned into a passion project with the birth of Grumpy Dumpling. Based in Norwalk (CT), Chef Kook works tirelessly, making delicious dumplings that have become a hit at farmers’ markets and events throughout Fairfield County. Their dumplings are so popular that they sell out quickly! (Make sure to get there early!) Lucky for us, Chef Kook and Jocelyn took a break from their busy schedule to chat with Suburbs 101. We asked them to name their favorite restaurants in Connecticut and New York City, and they came up with a list of the best restaurants in Fairfield County and New York City- including the best Thai restaurants in NYC!
PS: We are very excited about the upcoming Greenwich Wine + Food on March 4, 2023, where Chef Kook will be a guest chef.
Eat Where the Chefs Eat is a column where local Chefs and food industry insiders share their favorite restaurants in the New York metro area. Learn where your favorite chefs go when they aren’t in their own kitchens!
What are your favorite restaurants in Fairfield County (Connecticut)?
Our favorite restaurant in Fairfield County is Valencia Luncheria in Norwalk, CT. At Valencia Luncheria, we love their empanadas, our dumpling cousins! I’m a big fan of the Curried Cauliflower empanada and also like to keep it simple with the black bean and cheese. Kook likes the beef picadillo. We also always get their chips and fresh guacamole. Our favorite thing at Valencia Luncheria is their green sauce which we put on everything- on the empanada, on the beef picadillo! That green sauce has actually been one of our inspirations to make a sauce so good that you want to drink it.
We don’t get a lot of chances to eat out at restaurants, but we do spend a lot of time at the farmers’ markets where we support other food trucks and vendors. Last season, we were at Wilton Farmers’ Market, Trumbull Farmers’ Market, and New Canaan Farmers’ Market. Plus we do pop-up events at local spots like Space Cat Brewing Co. and events like the Garlic Festival and the Wilton Carnival.
At the farmers’ market, we always seek out the meatballs from This ‘n That Catering- they make killer meatballs! Wanke Yankee has the best hot sauce around. Wonderland Jams are the best we’ve tried. SpaceCat Brewing has some of our favorite beers. We try to sample something new every week from various farmers’ market vendors. We are looking forward to going back to all of those markets this year and hopefully adding more markets such as the Fairfield Farmers’ market.
What are the best Thai restaurants in NYC?
The New York City restaurant scene is still very new to us since Kook is from Bangkok and even though I grew up in the area, I lived in Chicago and then Bangkok for 9 years and only recently returned to Connecticut. Kook often misses authentic Thai food from home and doesn’t always feel like cooking, fortunately, we have a few favorite Thai restaurants in New York City.
One of the best Thai restaurants in NYC is near Union Square. There’s a really good Thai restaurant called Soothr. At Soothr, I love their Khao Soi which is a Northern-style Thai curry with chicken and egg noodles topped with crunchy fried noodles. Kook likes their Sukhothai noodles. And for dessert, they have something called Kanom Tuay which is a steamed coconut milk pudding dessert (that’s the best way I can think to describe it). They remind us of our favorite street food from Thailand! There’s always a wait at Soothr, but trust me, the ambiance and food are worth the wait!
We also like to go to Queens for the best Thai restaurants in NYC. There is a section of Queens on Woodside Ave. with a lot of authentic Thai restaurants. We like a place called Khao Kang. It’s not fancy but it’s just like what you can get in Thailand. At Khao Khang, they have great Penang Moo (Penang Pork) curry and Palo Moo (slow-cooked pork with herbs) both served over Jasmine rice.
There’s another great Thai restaurant across the street called Pata Paplean with really good noodles. At Pata Paplean, they have lots of different noodle options, but our favorite is the Tom Yum Moo (pork Tom Yum) noodles. They balance the flavors exactly like in Thailand. Super authentic.
About Chef Kook
Chef Chalermrat (Kook) Pongngarmsanga has loved cooking since he was a kid in Bangkok, Thailand. From his mom, he learned at a young age how to balance the complex Thai flavors of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty. Chef Kook had spent most of his professional life working in fitness and nutrition in Thailand, giving him a deep appreciation and understanding of how the quality of food we consume affects everything in our lives which is why he cooks with organic, whole ingredients whenever possible.
Though he has no formal training, he always seemed to find himself in the kitchens of his clients and friends whenever he had free time. From street-side Bangkok noodle carts to award-winning establishments, Chef Kook’s network knew they could rely on him in a pinch when they needed help in their restaurants. After getting married and moving to America in 2021, he had the opportunity to pursue his lifetime passion and, with his wife, started Grumpy Dumpling Co. in 2022 – a real-life American Dream. In his personal life, he loves to travel (and try all the foods), is an avid rugby player, and is expecting his first child in early 2023.
How to Order from Grumpy Dumpling
Grumpy Dumpling can be found in various farmers’ markets and events in Fairfield County, CT. They also deliver within 20 miles of Norwalk, CT. Check out the Grumpy Dumpling website for more information on how to order online.
Looking for Restaurant Recommendations from Chefs? Check out our other Eat Where the Chef Eats interviews:
Chef Luke Venner’s Favorite Restaurants in New York and Connecticut
Chef Peter Kelly’s Favorite Restaurants in Westchester
Best Restaurants in Fairfield County: Chef Robin Selden
Best Thai Restaurants in NYC: Grumpy Dumpling Chef Kook’s Faves
Best Restaurants in NY: According to Chef Ellen Sledge
Best Restaurants in Litchfield County, CT: According to Chef Evan Kalogiannis
Best Sushi in Greenwich, CT: According to Chef Scott Fratangelo
About Suburbs 101
Suburbs 101 is an insider’s guide to suburban living. Get the inside scoop on what it’s really like to live in the suburbs through our interviews with local suburbanites and features on Food, Fashion, Home, Garden, Travel, Pets, Real Estate and Local Events. Be sure to Follow Us on Instagram, Like Us on Facebook, Subscribe to our YouTube Channel, and subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter.