Prolific chef Pichaya “Pam” Utharntham draws inspiration from her Thai-Chinese heritage to create a dining experience that’s completely different from what she offers at The Table, her intimate dining room where she churns out creations influenced by French fare and western cooking techniques. At Potong, the former judge of Top Chef Thailand extracts inspiration from her cultural background. “I grew up in a Thai-Chinese family, and it strikes me how no one has tried to capture this culture in fine dining,” she says.
The restaurant is named after the drugstore her Hokkien great-great-grandfather, who settled down in Thailand 130 years ago, founded. Potong is credited for popularizing a herb potion for women that is still being sold to this day.
The age-old traditions of Chinese immigrants come to the fore at Potong the restaurant. “The charm of Thai-Chinese cuisine lies in how it encapsulates the cultures of Hokkien and Teochew settlers, who had to integrate with their surroundings in Thailand in the form of cuisine,” Chef Pam explains.
These influences are represented in “5 Elements, 5 Senses”, a tasting menu that also displays the chef’s progressive cooking. Each of the 20 courses in the menu is closely intertwined with stories from Chef Pam’s childhood and background. One of them is a steamed black chicken that’s served with riceberry rice cooked in pork stomach and infused with over 20 herbs, and a vinegar drink. Black chicken, which was a food she grew up eating, may not be familiar to today’s diners, which is why she is bringing it back to the table.
Many of the dishes, though, are known to us, such as dim sum and roasted barbecue that are presented in a more modern way.
The majority of ingredients used for the multi-course meal are made in-house by the Potong crew, from the soy sauce, to the miso, to the fermented tea. And a dedication to detail is seen in many courses like a 14-day dry-aged duck, barbecued Angus beef, and stir-fried Chinese kale, served all together with six dipping sauces.
It may take two to three hours to complete all 20 courses, but it’s time well spent, especially with black soy sauce ice cream to look forward to at meal’s end. It took Chef Pam over six months to ferment the sauce for this unique dessert, which is a perfect balance of sweet, salty and even spicy—the dish is served with chili-shaped candy.
Accompanying each dish is a postcard with messages that Pam has written to her great-great-grandfather. It’s a personal touch that gives a more personal and meaningful slant to the entire Potong experience.
Potong’s “5 Elements, 5 Senses” menu is priced at B4,500++ per person. Find out more information about the course and how to make reservations here.