THE GEM OF THAI CUISINE, UNEARTHED

On 27 June 2019, two of Southeast Asia’s most popular chefs, Chef Malcolm Lee of Candlenut at COMO Dempsey and Chef Pim Techamuanvivit of nahm at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, will be coming together for a ‘one evening-only’ culinary collaboration to celebrate the distinct flavours of Peranakan and Thai cuisine.

Before booking your seat, learn more about the celebrated Thai chef who curiously found her start in tech at Silicon Valley. However, it was the passion for cooking and upholding Thai culinary traditions that led Chef Pim to establish the Michelin-starred restaurant Kin Khao in San Francisco in 2014. Today, she is the very capable captain of the ship at nahm, which is a trailblazer in the country’s culinary scene because of its ingredients-first approach.

Tell us about your earliest memory of food that made an impact in your personal life. Would you say this was a catalyst towards your career in F&B?
I don’t know if I had too many memories that don’t involve food. So, yes, I think that definitely was a catalyst toward my career in food.

Was the career shift from tech a difficult choice to make? What made you take the risk and what challenges did you go through before making a name for yourself?
It wasn’t that difficult, really. My career in tech wasn’t all that well planned. I thought I’d be an academic, but I fell into a career in tech and really enjoyed it. But one day, I just realized that continuing to work in Silicon Valley long-term didn’t really appeal to me, so I thought I’d take a break for a few years to really find out what I wanted to do with my life and what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I started out writing about food. I found that easy because I’d already made a bit of a name for myself blogging, and then I opened Kin Khao. No other restaurants were cooking the Thai food I grew up with, the food I really missed, so I thought I’d try it myself.

For those who have yet to try your food, what is Thai food like in the hands of Chef Pim Techamuanvivit?
Delicious. I try to make deliciousness the first priority. I think my food is a bit delicate, but I’m not saying that it’s tamed. I like to use great ingredients and I care about how the ingredients are grown, harvested, or made. So in my cooking, I try to keep a delicate hand so you could still taste the quality of the ingredients underneath it all.

What was your first experience with Peranakan food? Given this collaboration with Candlenut, what was your thought process like when thinking of the menu? Where or how does one start?
When I was growing up in Thailand, my family vacationed in Phuket every year. There’s some influence of Peranakan food in the local cuisine, which call Ya-ya cuisine. That’s where I learned to love the food.

As for the menu, I think of the similar ingredients that both cuisines share, and then I try to pick a dish that showcases how we use that ingredient, but in a slightly different way. I think that would be interesting to the guests who are used to Peranakan cuisine, to try something that is at once familiar and different.

Is there a particular dish on the four-hands collaboration menu you’re particularly excited about?
We are making Gapi Plah, an old Thai shrimp paste relish that uses a delicate shrimp paste from Chumpon province in the south of Thailand. The shrimp paste itself is quite different in texture and funk from Belacan, and we use a lot of citrus and young peppercorns in that relish so it should be really fun.

After working together with Chef Malcolm Lee on this collaboration, what is your view/understanding of Peranakan food now?
I’m in as much awe of Peranakan food as I was before. What an interesting cuisine, what an exciting combination of flavours and textures – I’m a super fan! And I love Malcolm’s food. I think his touch is quite delicate too, and I look forward to learning even more from him in the coming days.

If cost wasn’t an issue or access to it was much easier, is there a particular ingredient that you’d use more often? What is it about this ingredient that you love?
I also cook at my restaurant in the US, and I really wish we have the same access of great artisanal ingredients that are becoming more and more available in Thailand. We have all these interesting rice varieties I would love to use.

Outside of work, who is Chef Pim? What are the simple pleasures you enjoy?
I enjoy cooking at home. As much as I cook in my restaurants, I still love cooking at home. That’s how I relax.

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