A gentleman from the Thai old school

On the map of international haute cuisine, you will actually come across the name nahm twice. The first is inLondon, where star chef David Thompson was awarded the world’s first Michelin star for a Thairestaurantatthe turn of the millennium, causing quite a stir in the industry. And the other is in Bangkok, where Thompsonproved with the opening of his second nahmrestaurantin 2010, that he was capable of repeating the success ofhis modern Thai cuisine in Thailand itself.

Since 2014, however, Prin Polsuk has been in charge there in his capacity as head chef. After attracting a greatdeal of praise as Thompson’s sous chef during the preceding years, the Thai-born chef, who had deeply impressedThompson with his abilities, ideas and philosophy, was named by the Australian as his “representative” inBangkok. By the end of his first year, he had repaid the trust placed in him in truly impressive style: he achieved astar in the Michelin Guide and seventh place in San Pellegrino’s The World’s 50 BestRestaurants2015, which alsoled to nahm being named Asia’s BestRestaurant.

What was it that so impressed the critics? It was the unbelievable spectrum of different tastes and flavours thatPolsuk seemingly effortlessly combines on the plate. Raw food goes hand-in-hand with cooked food, sweet withsour, spicy with mild, creamy with crispy – and all that is often found in just one dish. And so the menu includes,for example, smoked catfish, which Polsuk chops with fresh shallots and serves alongside spicy beeffrom the grill and vegetables. Or kaffir lime in a kipper sauce with sweet pork, savoury fish dumplings andbamboo poached in coconut milk.
Prin Polsuk finds the sophisticated art of Thai cuisine to be missing from many other Thairestaurants. “For thelast 50 years or so, Thai cuisine has enjoyed a great deal of popularity all over the world, and new establishmentsare opening up everywhere. The result of this is that people no longer know what Thai food really tastes like”.For the majority of people, the culinary horizon ends at red and green curry – and other than spiciness, thesedishes fail to provide any kind of taste experience.

That is why Prin Polsuk believes it to be his calling to breathe new life into the old school of Thai cuisine atnahm. He leafs through antique cookbooks and tries to comprehend the full complexity of the recipes anddishes: “I just want to show the world what Thai really is”.

Of course, this does not mean that Polsuk shuns new developments. That is why his philosophy focuses on thescientific search for the roots of Thai cuisine, whilst keeping a constant eye on the present and the future. Anexample of this is the occasional nod to modern Thai street food that can be found in some of his dishes.

One thing is for sure: you need to experience Prin Polsuk’s dishes before you are able to fully understand them.And you will have the opportunity to do just that in May, when he brings his old school Thai cuisine to Salzburgfor his guest chef appearance atRestaurantIkarusin Hangar-7.

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