Say is the culinary talent at acclaimed Auckland Thai restaurant Saan. Every plate reflects Say’s artistry – acquired and honed at cooking school in Bangkok. Say’s culinary hero is her tutor Darunee Chakraphan, who cooked for the Thai royal family and taught Say to cook royal Thai cuisine, such as this Steamed Fish Curry. This fragrant dish carries a whiff of nostalgia for Say, especially early memories of her beloved teacher (who she visits every year).
Say: When I was 25 I attended the Royal Traditional Thai Crafts School for Women, a culinary school in the inner court of the royal palace in Bangkok. The Thai cooking class included fruit and vegetable carving, fresh flower work, garland-making and traditional hand embroidery. My teacher Darunee was famous for reviving an egg dessert from the royal archives. She named it after Rama IX’s popular pet Alsatian dog, Tongdaeng. She drummed into us that no good food could be cooked without love and a dash of soul, in true Buddhist fashion. She treated each one like we were her own children; she rang us when we weren’t well, she checked on our mental health and prodded us to make sure we were giving everything our best shot. With this fish curry, she walked around the room making sure we stirred the mok paste in one direction for an hour without stopping. For the domestic kitchen, and as we are not serving the King, it’s perfectly fine to whizz in the blender.
Find Hor Mok Ma Praw Oon recipe here.