“The food I serve now reflects 100 percent who I am,” says Chef Patchara “Pom” Pirapak, who now calls the shots at Terrace Rim Naam, the outdoor sister restaurant of Mandarin Oriental’s famed fine-dining spot, Sala Rim Naam.
Chef Pom previously led the kitchen at the Michelin-awarded Thai dining room Saneh Jaan. At the Wireless Road restaurant, she was was widely praised for her take on royal Thai cooking. However, the young chef says that it’s less refined provincial fare, which captures the multi-faceted culinary culture of rural Thais, that defines her passion for cooking.
Chef Pom initially acquired the taste for this kind of cuisine while she was growing up in a remote village in Yasothon. But it’s her extensive travel to different places throughout the kingdom, that gave her in-depth knowledge of the ingredients endemic to each region and each province’s specialties.
“I always travel to many parts of Thailand to see how the locals live, as well as what they eat. I would stay in one city for at least three to four days and would ask the locals where to eat. I would go to places where the locals buy their food, not the places they would recommend to tourists,” she relates. “I recently went to Thong Pha Phum in Kanchanaburi. It’s a very multicultural place—there are people of many ethnicities, such as the Burmese, the Mon and the Lao—and I was really inspired by its diverse culture.”
Though she found fame as the head chef at Saneh Jaan, Chef Pom had to quit the Michelinlauded establishment due to health issues. She then took a brief hiatus from kitchen work. When she recovered, the soft-spoken chef was invited by Mandarin Oriental to help give their often-forgotten Thai restaurant, Terrace Rim Naam, a complete makeover.
At the revamped restaurant, Chef Pom is able to display her passion for provincial Thai cuisine, using ingredients and inspiration from different parts of Thailand to take diners to an extraordinary culinary journey.
Sago from Phattalung is made into a cracker that’s paired with a flavorful prawn and pork dip (B380), while dried pla salid (dried gourami fish) from Suphanburi, as well as bitter orange zest and bergamot peel, are combined to create a unique soup dish (B630). The Phuen community (Lao immigrants) in Ratchaburi, meanwhile, inspired a heavenly duck breast with coconut milk (B600).
Keeping it authentic and old-school is key in the chef de cuisine’s cooking. “I once tried to challenge the original recipe of pad krathon (stirfried santol with shrimp paste).
The recipe required soaking the santol with water overnight, but I didn’t stick by the rulebook and soaked it for only a few hours. And it turned out to be a disaster,” she reveals. “If we’re to cook Thai food, we’d better stick to the original recipe.