By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
Phatchara “Pom” Pirapak, 29, honed her formidable skills in the kitchen with Thai cuisine maestro Chumphol Jangprai when she was just 21, working alongside him at Siam Wisdom restaurant. She rose to fame in 2017 while working as head chef at Saneh Jaan restaurant that was awarded a Michelin star.
Terrace Rim Naam/Nationphoto: Korbphuk Phromrekha
After working at Saneh Jaan for three years, she was forced to take a year out to recover from health problems. During her one-year absence, she travelled around the country to learn more about local ingredients and the unique recipes of different communities.
“Cooking is not just my passion, but my life. I love to go to the fresh morning markets to explore the distinctive seasonal ingredients indigenous to each area. Uthai Thani’s riverside market is one of the most charming venues and I like to get there every month. The eastern provinces of Rayong and Trat are best sources for dried shrimp and fish sauce and nowhere can beat the Southern provinces of Ranong, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phuket for shrimp paste and tasty shrimp chilli paste,” says Pom, a graduate of Suan Dusit University’s School of Culinary Arts.
Phatchara “Pom” Pirapak
Now back to full physical strength, she joined the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok two months ago to develop a selection of 30 Thai dishes that while all reinterpretations of original recipes, still celebrate local wisdom and authentic flavours. The selection of her a la carte creations was introduced to the dinner menu early this month.
“I am so grateful to the older patrons of my former workplace for their love and kindness. Several of them invited me to their houses and even revealed to me their family’s recipes and gave me tips that helped broaden my cooking experience.
Crispy fried sago with minced pork and prawn in coconut cream dip
“I learned how to cook khao chae (rice chilled in jasmine-scented water) from a Mon community in Kanchanaburi’s Sangkhla Buri district, while a respected senior who was born in Krabi showed me how to make a truly flavourful sataw pad gapi goong (stir-fried stink bean with shrimp) in Krabi style by adding pickled garlic to tone down the saltiness of the shrimp paste and give the dish a slightly sweet taste. These opportunities helped me to develop the new dishes for Terrace Rim Naam,” she says.
One of her patrons is the food columnist Thorung Charungkitanan, widow of SEA Write laureate Vanich. She gave Pom the recipe for the traditional dessert called Khao Mao Rang Nam Kati (roasted unripe rice kernels served with coconut ice cream).
Khao Mao Rang Nam Kati
Creatively adapted for Terrace Rim Naam and priced at Bt180, the dessert is made by slowly roasting the unripe rice kernels while sprinkling them with water to make sure they don’t burn.
“I use my hands to thoroughly spread the rice while it’s roasting so that I can feel when it reaches the right crispiness. According to the traditional recipe, it’s served in coconut milk and taeng thai (Thai muskmelon), but I opt for coconut milk ice cream as well as avocado and two varieties of Japanese melons with orange and green flesh. The combination of melon and avocado gives a similar taste to the taeng thai, but is more refreshing and aromatic,” she adds.
Ped Khua Lao-Phuan
While living with Lao-Phuan ethnic community in Ratchaburi province, she also learnt how to cook Ped Khua Lao-Phuan (dry stir-fried duck in Lao-Phuan style). Instead of using pulled duck like the original version, her revised option comes with duck confit seasoned with ground chilli, garlic and lemongrass dry stir-fried with coconut cream. Shrimp paste is used as a substitute for pla ra (fermented fish). It goes for Bt600.
Lin Moo Khua Bai Jan
Developed from a family recipe in the Northern province of Phrae, Lin Moo Khua Bai Jan (Bt350) or pork tongue dry stir-fried with tree basil leaves has an interesting pungent taste. The pork tongue is slowly simmered until mushy and then dry stir-fried with ground Yod Son chilli from Si Sa Ket province that is known for its aromatic and strong taste, together with the pungent Northern makwan seeds and tree basil leaves. A slow-cooked egg yolk is added to tone down the spiciness.
Nam Prik Goong Jone
The Southern-style favourite – Nam Prik Goong Jone or grilled river prawn in shrimp paste dip (Bt400) is another delicious option.
“I only use the shrimp paste made by villagers in Ranong province who produce just 100 kilograms a year. Their production process is truly hands-on and complicated. The paste is soft and clean and has no any unwanted sediments. I slowly roast it to give an aromatic flavour and then cook it with chopped red onion, chilli and shredded unripe nam dok mai mango for a tangy taste. The river prawn is grilled and pulled and the dip is served with seasonal vegetables.”
Gaeng Khua Poo Bai Cha Phu
Crab is her favourite ingredient and she cooks it to perfection in her Gaeng Khua Poo Bai Cha Phu or blue swimming crab yellow curry with wild betel leaves (Bt1,240). The chilli paste is slowly cooked with fresh coconut cream and crispy grilled fish flakes are added for bursts of flavor. The dense flesh of the entire blue swimming crab is used along with the roe.
And her steamed rice is cooked in an earthen pot the traditional way for the best soft and aromatic results.
The 100-seat Terrace Rim Naam overlooking the Chao Phra River is open daily for dinner from 5 to 10.30. Make a reservation at (02) 659 9000.