The Thai-Chinese stir-fry noodle dish ‘Phad See Iw’ has seen a resurgence thanks to the Netflix hit, ‘Hunger’.
Along with its many cultural influences, Thailand’s culinary world is rich with a diversity of tastes, ingredients, styles, and techniques. Freshly caught seafood, locally farmed fruits and vegetables, and myriad products are exquisitely crafted into Royal cuisine for fine dining or a-la-minute stir-fries for office workers. Thai food offers an endless journey of flavours.
But what is that ultimate one dish that you can never have enough when it comes to Thai food?
We ask the world's most famous chefs to tell us about their beloved Thai dish.
Can you guess the favourites of these culinary heavy weights? Is it Phad Thai? Is it Tom Yam? Or is it that spicy minced pork with holy basil dish called Phad Kaprao?
Mauro ColagrecoMirazur (Three MICHELIN Stars & MICHELIN Green Star, MICHELIN Guide France 2023)
“I love green curry,” says the 46-year-old Italian-Argentinian when visiting his one MICHELIN Starred Côte by Mauro Colagreco restaurant in Bangkok. “I also love tom yam soup!” exclaims the chef whose eyes sparkled when talking about food, especially the Thai food at the newly listed Phra Nakhon. “They make a really delicious one here at Capella.”
Aside from those delicacies, the first non-French chef in France to lead a French restaurant to three MICHELIN Stars also loves the street grub that The Land of Smiles is known for. “And there's street food that I love too, like moo ping [barbecued pork skewers]. It is simply delicious.”
Try green curry here:
Try tom yam here:
Heston BlumenthalFat Duck (Three MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2023)
“A sausage might not be what you first think of when considering Thai cuisine,” says the culinary mad scientist who is highly creative, a pioneer of multi-sensory cooking, and an author. What he says is not untrue, as Thai sausage might not be as well recognised by diners outside Thailand as the popular phad thai or stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts. And what is a ‘Thai sausage’ anyway?
“I love a banger and am always on the lookout for a really good one. So when I was travelling in Thailand I was delighted to discover the sai ua, which is wonderfully spicy, fragrant, and flavourful.” The Northern Thai sausage isn’t the one item that the chef of three MICHELIN Starred Fat Duck and two MICHELIN Starred Dinner by Heston Blumenthal favours – so is the funky fermented Isan sausage called sai krok Isan.
“It’s fermented, and I’m increasingly drawn to fermented foods because they have lots of health benefits. A sausage that’s gutsy and good for the gut – what more could you ask for?”
Try sai ua here:
Try Isan sausages here:
Anne-Sophie PicPic (Three MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide France 2023)
“My favourite plates are both tom kha kung and tom kha kai,” says the only female chef in France to achieve three MICHELIN Stars. “They both enhance two of my favourite ingredients: galangal, a slightly lemony peppery spice, and combawa [also called kaffir lime or bergamot], a citrus fruit grown in Southeast Asia.”
Although occupied with running six restaurants, including the three MICHELIN Starred Pic in Valence, two MICHELIN Starred Anne-Sophie Pic in Lausanne and La Dame de Pic in London, as well as one MICHELIN Starred La Dame de Pic - Le 1920 in Megève and La Dame de Pic in Paris, along with the newly starred La Dame de Pic in Singapore, the French culinary artist continues to discover new flavours. “You can enhance the flavour intensity with extra combawa leaves and generous galangal quantities. This is the secret of one of my dear friends, Nathalie Arbefeuille, who made me discover this dish a few years ago when she was living in Thailand.”
Aside from the milky tom kha, the French chef has an eye on Asian aromatics, especially the kaffir lime and galangal in green curry. “I am blessed with my restaurant La Dame de Pic in Singapore as I have always been fascinated by Asian cuisines. Asian techniques and ingredients are a true source of inspiration,” says Chef Pic, referring to the newly minted starred restaurant in Singapore. “I particularly value the market trips with my teams when we go explore Singaporean gastronomy and terroir, as well as the proximity with Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand.”
Try tom kha here:
Gordon RamsayRestaurant Gordon Ramsay (Three MICHELIN Stars, MICHELIN Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2023)
The Hell’s Kitchen star was shut down publicly on television over a decade ago by the late Chef Chang of the Blue Elephant restaurant in London who said, “This is not phad thai at all. Phad thai must be sweet, sour, and salty.” The video went viral and has been viewed over 10 million times on YouTube. We now asked Chef Gordon Ramsay about his favourite Thai dish.
“My favourite dish has to be those amazing curries from Northern Thailand, especially the kaeng hang lay.”
Having run successful restaurants in different parts of the world, including the one MICHELIN Starred Gordon Ramsay au Trianon in Versaille and Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay in London, as well as the two MICHELIN Starred Le Pressoir d'Argent - Gordon Ramsay in Bordeaux, and, of course, the three MICHELIN Starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London, the 56-year-old Scottish born chef has trotted the globe in search of local culinary gems on and off screen. But what’s so special about kaeng hang lay?
“When I did my documentary series, Gordon Ramsay's Great Escape, I spent a month in Thailand and went to the North to learn about the incredible spicy flavours of the region. While I was there, the local aunties put me to work to feed the local monks making hang lay,” recalls the culinary juggernaut.
“And when I finally was able to take my first taste, I was blown away.”
Curious to see how the Thai aunties put Chef Ramsay to work? Catch it on Gordon Ramsay's Great Escape: Thailand.
Try kaeng hang lay here:
Wolfgang PuckCUT (One MICHELIN Star, MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2022)
The world-renowned Austrian-American chef needs little introduction. His signature borderless dish, house-smoked salmon pizza, at his original restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills took California by storm. He has branched out to Spago by Wolfgang Puck in Hungary, Spago in Istanbul, and Spago Dining Room in Singapore. Chef Puck’s Spago has defined California cuisine since the 1980s and started a California pizza trend that spread far and wide, inspiring many chefs around the globe.
As a well-travelled man passionate about bridging cuisines and blurring the lines between tradition and innovation, the celebrity chef shares his love for Thai flavours. “I love phad thai, but on the spicy side with seared scallops and a lemongrass lime sauce,” says the 73-year-old chef. “I like this dish because it has a very well rounded flavour. From sweet to tangy to spicy. Then, you add seared scallops with the noodles slightly underdone with fresh mint and cilantro on top. It is probably one of the most complex dishes.”
The Hollywood star adds, “And while it’s now pretty commercial, when done right it is one of the greatest dishes in the world. We started to make this phad thai in Merois in Los Angeles, and it’s a huge success. People come back for this dish.”
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Andreas CaminadaSchloss Schauenstein (Three MICHELIN Stars & MICHELIN Green Star, MICHELIN Guide Switzerland 2022)
“I love intense, strong flavours,” says the 45-year-old Swiss master on one of his visits to one MICHELIN Starred IGNIV Bangkok. “Papaya salad has all flavours: salty, spicy, sour, fresh, crunchy, and a lot of umami.”
Camiada, who made history by being one of the youngest chefs to receive three MICHELIN Stars, which he did at just 33 at a restaurant in a castle, Schloss Schauenstein, in Fürstenau, Switzerland, looks back to the very first taste of som tam, the Northeastern Thai papaya salad. “If I remember correctly, I had it the first time in 2018 when we did the IGNIV tour in Asia. Since then, I love it, and it’s always the first thing I want to eat when I arrive in Bangkok.”
The Swiss culinarian loves this dish so much that he demonstrates simple steps to make som tam in his online cooking video. How best to enjoy it? “I like to eat it by itself, or maybe with some lab or grilled chicken, but I prefer it by itself,” adds the chef.
Try som tam here:
- Som Tum Jinda, Ubon Ratchathani
- Som Tum Jae Kai (1st branch), Udon Thani
- Somtum Udon (Soi Thantawan), Chiang MaiCONTINUE READING: Decoding Som Tam, Thailand's Delicious Papaya Salad
Illustration image: © Courtesy of restaurants