Bangkok in bowl

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Friday, March 22, 2013

BANGKOK stirs up an image of temples and fragrant spices that tickle the nostrils. A man can travel to that exotic land and taste its cuisine—or stay in Cebu where he can dine in a place that offers Bangkok in a bowl.

There’s a relatively new executive chef at the Marriott Hotel Cebu kitchen. He’s chef Chachpol Suaisom whose expertise is in both French cuisine and Thai, specifically Bangkok, cuisine. It’s his Thai cuisine that is in focus at Marriott’s Garden Café this March.

Chef Chachpol, who is from Thailand, said he started  to dabble in the kitchen when he was 12 years old. His mother had a restaurant, so he literally grew up in the food business. But when he started cooking professionally, it was in another establishment in Japan. Then he had his own restaurant in Bangkok and from there, has been in various places in the world: England, Dubai and Miami where he worked with the Royal Carribean Cruise Line. He has worked with the Marriott chain of hotels for 13 years and, before coming to Cebu, he was main kitchen chef of JW Marriott in Bangkok.


Chachpol says a chef has to be creative to think of something different to make his food concoction singularly his and at the same time that it is palatable, delicious.

And if the dish is traditional, he says he does not tamper with the recipe but he tries to create something different in its presentation. Thai food being spicy, hot, he says he will adjust some dishes to the Filipino taste, but not all  because some will simply have to be Thai-spicy or they will no longer qualify as Thai cuisine.

When Chachpol says “Thai cuisine,” he emphasizes it is Bangkok cuisine that he refers to, the other cities or districts of Thailand having slightly different cuisines because of the difference in environment. Bangkok cuisine, he emphasizes, uses mostly fresh ingredients. The chilis have to be fresh, not dried. The cuisine uses lemongrass, galangal  (which is of the ginger family, similar to but different from turmeric), kaffir lime, coconut milk, which is not normally used in northern and eastern Thailand because coconut does not grown there.

A preview of some of the Thai treats include grilled Thai beef salad (very tender and not too hot); vegetable spring rolls that go best with a sweet chili sauce; a spicy and sour prawn soup with lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime. For main entrée there were chicken green curry with sliced eggplants; stir-fried rice noodles with prawn and tamarind sauce; and a very delicious and tender stir-fried beef tenderloin with black pepper sauce.

The “something different” novel that Chachpol talked about was very evident in the desserts: Thai mango and sticky rice presented like sliced jelly roll (instead of sticky rice with mango slices on top) with coconut sauce; and an utterly delicious sweet banana slow-cooked in coconut milk and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds.

Chachpol came to Marriott Cebu at a very busy, almost hectic, time: Christmas, Sinulog, Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day. With all those festivities out of the way, he now has more time to think of ways to make Marriott Hotel’s food offerings more interesting in its various outlets. Will he be featuring French cuisine next?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 23, 2013.


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