When you visit Front room at the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, the new menu of Thai cuisine may surprise you. Known for its fine Nordic-style cuisine, this prestigious restaurant recently underwent a bold redesign that replaced the Nordic menu with traditional Thai home-style cooking.
One of the masterminds behind this successful transformation is head chef Sarocha “Bua” Rajatanawin, who should also pay tribute to her mother. Among the many dishes that she missed her childhood and her mother’s cuisine is a fried pork and ginger dish called moo phad khing is her favorite.
“My mom cooks best moo phad khing“Says the head chef at Front Room, who says that her mother’s culinary sophistication has left an indelible mark on her. “I ate it once moo phad khing with steamed rice for a whole month, with every meal. I enjoy it very much and will usually share it with my younger brother. “
Chef Bua’s mother is Thai-Chinese and incorporates Chinese cooking styles into her Thai dishes. From her she learned that too many ingredients and techniques can make a dish taste “confusing”.
“Understand, choose and balance your ingredients well,” advises Chef Bua, who loves using a ground chili paste from northern Thailand in her kitchen. She often uses prik larb Chili paste made from more than ten herbs and spices to add a piquant aroma and flavor to Thai dishes such as spicy minced duck.
“Taste is the most important thing. Similar to my mother, I use a wok, but I use different techniques when cooking. It is important that my dishes taste like real classics and are reminiscent of their family and childhood. “
Another chef that Chef Bua cites as a major influence is French Michelin-starred chef Arnaud Dunand Sauthier, the former head chef at Le Normandie at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. Chef Bua says Chef Arnaud helped her understand that “less is more” and reveals, “When I worked with Chef Arnaud, he taught me not to use too many ingredients in a dish – focus on the three main ingredients and use the other ingredients to complement them. I also learned new cooking techniques from Front Room Advisor, Chef Ann Supanat Khanarak, that can make the same ingredients taste different. “
In addition to the fantastic menu, guests will also appreciate the fresh new look of the Front Room – from plush seating and handcrafted furniture to floor-to-ceiling windows that let sunlight highlight the restaurant’s nifty details that evoke the nature of Thailand. While the guests enjoy this opulent ambience, Chef Bua and his team pamper them with family recipes that have been passed down through many generations.
Coconuts had the pleasure of plucking Chef Bua’s brains and finding out how she and her team built this new bastion and keeper of tradition.
Can you describe the dining experience you intend for guests in the redesigned Front Room?
Chef Bua: We wanted to reopen Front Room as a Thai restaurant serving delicious, authentic and calming dishes that guests would remember ros mue mae (Mother home cooking). We want guests to enjoy a guest experience that lives up to the Waldorf Astoria brand’s promise of innovative culinary excellence and genuine Waldorf service.
Was there anything special that inspired you when you created the new Front Room menu?
Chef Bua: I am inspired by the freshness of Thai ingredients like our local vegetables, coconut cream, herbs and spices. I have incorporated many of these colorful and powerful ingredients into the menu. For example, we wanted to introduce Thailand’s different types of chilli with different smells. The fresh and natural taste of every vegetable, herb and spice surprises me to this day.
Who did you design this menu with?
Chef Bua: The hotel team worked with consultants Dr. Niphatchanok Najpinij, a Thai gastronomy expert and full-time lecturer at Suan Dusit Rajabhat University, and Executive Chef Ann Supanat Khanarak, who has 30 years of experience in some of Thailand’s top restaurants, work together hotels. They share the same vision as I do that the best Thai food is homemade and should be shared with loved ones. Dr. Niphatchanok spent her life researching and studying food. She introduced us to the concept that Thai food has eight different flavors – sour, sweet, nutty, salty, spicy, bitter, tart and mild.
Have many family recipes been included in this menu?
Chef Bua: Since we all agreed that the best Thai food is cooked by our mothers, each cook, including the advisors, brought recipes to share, cook and test with. We also completed extensive training with Chef Ann on the fundamentals of Thai cuisine. At the same time, the Front Room team has experience with Western-style cooking techniques. Everyone brought their creativity and understanding of good food to the process, so it was more like a journey together. We shared, discussed and selected the best to deliver a sumptuous experience appropriate to Waldorf Astoria’s guests.
What do you need to consider when building a traditional Thai menu?
Chef Bua: When putting together a Thai menu, it is very important to offer enough variety from the starter to the main course to dessert. It is very common for Thais to eat here samrub, that is the principle of combining and presenting dishes that complement each other in terms of ingredients, aromas, textures and taste, so our team had to plan well. The starters complement the main courses and sometimes the desserts. Everyone has a different palate, but we can’t customize the dishes too much or they’ll lose their authenticity.
Speaking of authentic home-style cooking, in these unprecedented times, many of us cook at home more often. Can you give us an expert tip on how to cook authentic Thai dishes at home?
Chef Bua: Choose the right rice and cook the rice well. Since we eat rice with everything, it is very important to buy the right type of rice. If you can’t finish your steamed rice, store the leftover rice in the refrigerator, which is perfect for a fried rice meal the next day.
As the situation on the ground improves, people are slowly moving outwards. What meal would you recommend for readers who would like to dine in the Front Room?
Chef Bua: Front Room’s kitchen is best enjoyed and shared in a group samrub Style – several dishes that complement each other’s tastes. Meat lovers will love it Ruammit Yang, a mixed grill platter with marinated prawns, pork and minced pork, served with a coconut dipping sauce and pineapple relish. Try the flavorful and refreshing Yum Gai Sheek Bai Paew, a Thai chicken breast salad with Vietnamese coriander. For your main course, don’t forget ours Talae Gub Sator Kua Sauce Khem (fried seafood with bitter beans and salty seafood oil), Nuea Khem Tom Kati (Coconut broth, salted beef cheek, shallots and chilli) and Pla Gao Nueng Phrik Larb Kua (Grouper, shallot, garlic, and fermented fish oil, served with steamed rice). End your meal with the iconic Front Room Maphrao Cheesecake, a coconut cheesecake with young coconut jelly and white chocolate mousse.
Some people may still prefer take away or home delivery meals. Can you recommend a few menu items that “travel well”?
Chef Bua: The popular amuse bouche chives cracker in the Front Room is available to take away. A box of 10 pieces of sweet soy dipping sauce costs THB280 ++ per box. You might like it too Gaeng Phed Tai Pla Kraphong Bai Yira (Southern Thai style sea bass with coconut cream, taro stalk and cumin leaf) and Moo Sam Shan Pad Grathiam Dong (fried) Kurobuta Pork belly with fermented garlic). The first is spicy and the other is sweet, so they can be eaten with steamed rice.
Can you also tell us about the plant-based dishes that your team recently created?
Chef Bua: To meet the increasing demand for plant-based cuisine, our team has combined our culinary skills and creativity to create exclusive plant-based dishes with a full Thai flavor. The highlights include Phla Lai Bua (Lotus stalk with pomelo and homemade chili paste), Fong Tao Hu Hor Hua Chai Tao Thod (fried tofu skin and steamed turnip), Gaeng Khiao Whan (green curry with vegetable meat, vegetables and coconut meat) and sorbet Som Zaa (Bitter orange sorbet, green mango and ginger served with fried shallots).
The Front Room is located at Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, 151 Ratchadamri Rd, Lumphini, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330. To make a reservation, call +66 2 846 8847.
Food # LikeAMmember at participating Hilton restaurants and bars in Thailand and enjoy exclusive member-only discounts and privileges.