Your favourite recipes you cook for yourself?
I love cooking super tasty, spicy dishes. My favourite is spicy fish salad with green mango and ‘fluffy fish’. This is a very popular dish in Thailand.
The one thing you always have in your fridge?
Bird’s eye chilli and my home-made red curry paste, which I make for Saan.
If you could impart one piece of cooking knowledge to everyone, what would it be?
Giving importance to small details of how ingredients are prepared. For example, garlic and chilli must be pounded, and kaffir lime leaves must be torn not cut. Paying attention to every detail makes each person's food special.
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
My favourite meal of spicy shrimp paste dip with fried mackerel, Climbing Wattle (cha-om leaves) and eggplant omelettes. Like most Thai people, I must have chilli dip or chilli paste in my home to eat with sticky or jasmine rice or steamed vegetables.
Can you recall the moment when you knew you wanted to pursue a career in food?
When I was studying in Australia, I worked in a Myanmar restaurant as a dish-washer. Every day I watched the chef cooking and I thought, ‘I want to learn how to cook! I want to be a chef’. So after I finished work I would stay and learn to cook, without any payment.
Your go-to dinner party meal?
I make Thai hot pot North-eastern style with a seafood pot and a meat pot. It is a fun way to dine at home with my friends.
Who is your food hero?
My teacher Darunee Chakraphan, who cooked for the Thai Royal Family and who taught me how to cook Royal Thai cuisine. I have great respect for her and always go back to visit her when I return to Thailand.
What music, if any, do you like to listen to while cooking?
We have a number of nationalities in our kitchen at Saan so we listen to Korean, Japanese and Indian songs. I can sing most of the songs, even if I don’t understand the meaning! At home, I like to listen to Fur Elise by Beethoven. It brings back memories for me of playing it on the piano for my final performance test at university – I have a Bachelor’s Degree and majored in Music Education.
Biggest kitchen disaster?
Around five years ago, we had a power cut on a weekend night with a full house of hungry diners. The restaurant was almost completely dark and we only had one small security light in the kitchen. We used birthday candles and flashlights to cook by. Luckily we still had the gas on! All the customers were very happy with their food and it ended up being a fun and exciting night for all of us.
Your guilty pleasure?
I bring my seafood sauce and bird’s eye chilli to the Korean barbecue and Chinese hot pot buffets I go to.
In all your travels, where have you experienced the best food?
I love to cook and eat meat in my meals, but the vegetarian food at 'Water Drop Teahouse' at the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple in Flat Bush, Auckland is the best!
Is there one cookbook you go back to time and time again?
My own diary of recipes that I have kept since 2004: a compilation of recipes from 15 years ago to the present.
The kitchen utensil you can't live without?
Rice cooker and sharpening stone.
You're currently craving
Grilled oysters from Gion, a Japanese restaurant in Parnell. I can’t resist them!
Any advice to new cooks?
Learning about all different types of cooking and foods will help you find your own style and recipes. It’s also important to remember that, whilst some people may be talented in cooking, you must also have perseverance.