On November 6th, 2020, at Sankt Jørgens Allé 6 in the Vesterbro neighborhood, a new restaurant was born. Holy Krapow might be a newcomer to the city’s dining scene, but owner Sofie Lisby is no stranger to Copenhagen. After spending 16 years in Bangkok, Lisby came back to Denmark to open a Thai street food concept. There’s only one dish on the menu: pad krapow, which is one of the most popular dishes in Thailand.
Note: The location in Vesterbro has closed, but Holy Krapow is open at the Reffen Street Food market in Refshaleøen during the summer.
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Holy Krapow Opens in Copenhagen
A neon sign with a giant tongue and the words “THAI FOOD” in glowing pink letters catches your eye from the street. This must be the place. Step inside the simple storefront to find a counter where you can place your order, a fridge filled with bottled drinks, and a communal table with a couple benches. (Now, of course, the restaurant can only operate serving take-away food, but guests are welcome to sit on the bench on the street underneath a very warm heat lamp.) Do note: this place is already quite popular, so call ahead and pre-order to avoid a long wait. One evening, we tried to drop in and discovered we would have to wait over an hour for our food. Lesson learned!
Holy Krapow is not just a fun phrase to utter (holy crap! holy cow! holy krapow!), it’s also the main ingredient of the restaurant. There are actually three basil varieties in Thailand – the most common of which is horapa (the sweet Thai basil with flowery and aromatic qualities that you find in most dishes), and the least common of which is maenglak (lemon basil). Unlike the other varieties, krapow (holy basil) brings the heat – it’s peppery and spicy, with a very unique flavor. The plant originates in Southeast Asia and has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes due to its many health benefits.
Pad Krapow – One of Thailand’s Most Popular Dishes
“Pad krapow is eaten all over the country, it’s not just a regional dish like, for example, pad thai,” Lisby explained to us. In Thailand, the dish is most commonly served with pork, but Holy Krapow offers four different choices of protein: pork, chicken, beef, and mushroom. The base of the dish is jasmine rice, topped with a stir fry of meat, garlic, and holy basil that have been cooked in a wok on extremely high heat. The rice bowl is then finished with an over-easy fried egg. “Eating pad krapow without an egg would be like eating a burger without a bun!” Lisby passionately declared. “It’s an essential component.”
For an extra kick, Holy Krapow uses a combination of red and green krapow; but that’s not the only ingredient that packs a punch. Another key ingredient is red chili, which has been pounded with a mortar and pestle instead of cut with a knife, to bring out all the spicy juices. Can’t handle the heat? Holy Krapow has three different spice levels so you can customize your bowl to your preference: mild, hot, or Thai (very hot!). We tried two bowls at the hot level, and one at the mild level. None of the dishes were too spicy for us, so next time we might even be brave enough to try the Thai style.
Of the three varieties we tested (pork, chicken, and mushroom), the pork was our favorite. The juicy, flavorful meat matched perfectly with the peppery notes of the basil. While the mushroom is a nice vegetarian alternative for the herbivores, we didn’t feel that the slippery ‘shrooms absorbed as much of the flavorful spices as the meat. Also, since mushrooms retain so much water, they were especially hot to eat. (A tongue burning rather than the more pleasing tongue tingling sensation!) Temperature is important for this dish, however; so do eat it while it’s hot.
After all that spice, you’ll need something to soothe the burning sensation in your mouth. The panna cotta steamed with pandan leaves is the perfect solution. It has a wonderfully subtle, sweet herbal flavor, and the high quality of the milk really shines through – it’s rich and very creamy. There’s a fun texture to the dish that reminded us a little of sticky rice. We asked Lisby if the silky panna cotta was studded with grains of rice or tapioca, but she informed us that it was agar-agar, a jelly-like substance made from algae. The little jelly pieces made it really interesting to keep eating the panna cotta, giving it an addicting quality in the mouthfeel. Delicious!
Pad krapow is a simple dish, but Holy Krapow executes it well, with an emphasis on high-quality ingredients. This new casual restaurant has brought some much needed diversity and authentic Thai-style street food to a city that needs it. At the extremely affordable price of 80 DKK per bowl, this is a great value meal in Copenhagen.
Have you been to Holy Krapow? Let us know in a comment below.