By Kupluhai Pungkanon
The Nation Weekend
“THE WISDOM of Thai Cuisine”, the guiding concept at R.Haan, has won the Bangkok restaurant a place at the Michelin table, with a prestigious star newly awarded in the 2019 Michelin Guide Bangkok.
The applause belongs to celebrity chef Chumpol Jangprai, whose kitchen magic has drawn legions of admirers since the restaurant opened eight months ago.
Chumpol’s allegiance to authentic Thai cuisine and his fine-dining presentations are backed up by an unwavering policy of “no imported ingredients”.
He focuses firmly on the “heart” of Thai cookery, as strictly prescribed in traditional recipes, adding twists only to the final touches on starters and desserts to improve the presentation at table.
The private dining room
“My aim is to make my customers happy. They come here, enjoy the food and have a great experience,” says Chumpol, who takes inspiration from the famous Thai proverb “There is fish in the water and rice in the fields”, denoting to fertile waters and land to which the people have such a strong bond.
“That’s why we only cook with Thai ingredients. The menu changes seasonally so we can use the best ingredients and the herbs and spices that are in abundance. R.Haan’s goal is to signify the global popularity of Thai food. The restaurant’s name itself means ‘food’.”
Today esteemed as a master of Thai cuisine, Chumpol has spent his life since age six learning, experimenting and developing recipes, including researching the best ingredients and their sources.
The restaurant is a partnership with Piti Bhirombhakdi, heir to the Singha Corp business and a fellow devotee of the innate spirit and charm of the cuisine of their homeland.
“When I was young I liked to do three things – pound chillies into paste, knead fish cakes into shape and spin the ingredients to make ice cream. All of it was good exercise and I got to eat free ice cream! So at this restaurant, you don’t skip the ice cream. I’m the expert!”
Every diner is given three different menus, each menu listing a nine-course meal of dishes in small portions. You can’t mix and match from one menu to another, so it’s a good idea to go with at least two friends. That way everyone gets to sample the different courses, just like Thai family-style sharing.
Regardless of the menu, accompanying the dishes are either steamed Hom Mali rice from Chiang Rai or Ubon Ratchathani or steamed brown rice of five types.
Dessert choices come with Thai fruit, petit fours and tea or coffee.
The first menu, Thai Samrub Eak (Bt2,612), boasts such rare treats and begins with Coconut-smoked homemade pork sausage, Spicy Thai salad with termite mushrooms from Sakhon Nakhon, and Asparagus and organic chicken liver.
Steamed Thai dumplings with banana shrimp
The Steamed dumpling with banana shrimp is lovely, as is Crispy rice vermicelli with sweet and sour sauce made from somsa (sour orange). This arrives in chive-and-coriander pastry shells.
The main courses are equally savoury, including the traditional rainy-season Free-range chicken in a sour turmeric consomee with fresh madan (the herb garcinia).
King river prawn is cooked according to a venerable curry recipe for gang run juan and perfectly blends three different shrimp pastes. Both the Salted sun-dried beef in fresh coconut curry and Stir-fried pork belly with red curry crispy pork are wonderful as well.
Each of the menus features a different type of nam prik (chilli dip) and they’re all great.
Naam Prik Lhong Rau
“Nam prik represents our food culture,” says Chumpol. “It has it’s own charms, but it’s characteristically served with steamed and fresh vegetables and meat. I recommend the Nam Prik Lhong Rau on the Royal Cuisine menu because it comes from a recipe from Suan Sunandha Palace.
“For Classic Cuisine, I highlight spicy crab-roe sauce with a dip of bird’s-eye chillies. And northern-style Nam Prik Aong is chopped kurobuta and tomato.”
The next Thai Samrub Tho menu (Bt2,412) opens with Sriracha pineapple topped with minced pork and Doi Kham (Royal Project) macadamia.
The appetisers include a spicy salad of Wild banana flower and charcoal-grilled frog, a Satay chicken curry puff and a Deep-fried river prawn cake.
Wild banana flower salad with grilled frog
The main courses are Tom Yam Kung and Masaman made with Kam Pang San beef and nine spices.
“No matter what the season, these two dishes are always on the menu,” Chumpol says. “To me, savoury-tangy massaman in particular represents true Thai taste because it’s difficult to make just right since it has seven different tastes blended together.
“And for dessert we will always have Pakdee mango with sticky rice and Coconut-milk ice cream. It’s the best!”
Pakdee mango with sticky rice and ice cream
The Thai Samrub Tri menu (Bt2,212) includes a fantastic Deep-fried fish cake with orchid ginger from Ko Kret district. Then there’s Isaan-style prawn salad with young tamarind leaves, Black chicken from Chiang Mai grilled in the southern manner after marinating in golae, and Deep-fried dill fish soup with puffball mushrooms.
Korat Wagyu beef spicy consomme
Highly recommend is Korat wagyu beef spicy consomme and Catfish curry with cumin leaves, as well as Steamed crab curry, which is interestingly served in a bamboo tube.
R.Haan is meanwhile contributing to a revival in interest in fine traditional Thai ceramics. Every dish is presented on handcrafted traditional tableware that was used in the palace during the Rattannakosin Period.
As winter arrives, Chumpol hints that there will be pla tu – short mackerel – swimming onto the menus from the Gulf of Thailand.
As for earning that Michelin star in such a short time, Chumpol calls it the result of a team effort but points out that they spent two years getting ready to open with the right “authentic Thai” concept.
“I’m proud of the Michelin star, and R.Haan will maintain the same high quality and keep our customers happy.”
DELICIOUS IT TRULY IS
R.Haan is at 131 Soi Sukhumvit 53 (Paidee-Madee) Klongtun Nua Wattana in Bangkok.
It’s open daily from 6 to 11pm.
A private room able to accommodate up to 20 guests is available.
Make reservation at (02) 059 0433-4 or (095) 141 5524.