World Chefs: From food cart to restaurant empire for Thai 'Chef Ian'

Tue May 14, 2013 4:02am EDT
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By Amy Sawitta Lefevre

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Ian Kittichai has come a long way from his humble roots pushing a food cart through his Bangkok neighborhood and now commands a vast restaurant empire stretching from New York to Mumbai.

Though Kittichai has done his part to educate diners outside Thailand about the repertoire of Thai cuisine that extends well beyond green chicken curry, he's gone the other way in Thailand with the country's first gastro pub, "Hyde & Seek", which he opened in 2010.

At his flagship establishment, the Issaya Siamese Club, a Bangkok lounge and restaurant set in a 1920s Thai house tucked behind Bangkok's business district, Kittichai casts his well-travelled eye on classical Thai dishes and reinvents them.

Kittichai spoke to Reuters at the launch of the Issaya Siamese Club's first cookbook, "Issaya Siamese Club Cookbook: Innovative Thai Cuisine by Chef Ian Kittichai".

Q: How would you describe Thai food to the uninitiated?

A: Refreshing and flavorful. You're never bored when eating Thai food because there are always ingredients that will surprise you, especially the herbs. Thai cuisine has so much character and each region has its own specialties. When you eat Thai food, you feel full, but usually light.

Q: Tell us about your new cookbook.

A: The recipes cover the length and breadth of the Issaya repertoire. There are also tips on food preparation that are unique to Thai cuisine. The cookbook tells a story about the Issaya Siamese Club and the history of Thai cooking and imparts knowledge about cooking techniques like the use of natural ingredients like limestone water to make food crispy.   Continued...

A view of the Issaya Siamese Club in Bangkok's central business district, May 13, 2013. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom