Montri Jiratitkankit is a sous chef at The Athenee Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Bangkok, with over 17 years’ experience leading renowned Thai kitchens in Thailand and around the globe, including winning Thai restaurant awards in California.
Original compositions of authentic Thai cuisine from each of the four regions, down through the centuries, drawn from palace kitchens to popular street stalls, are the culinary currency of Chef Montri Jiratitkankit, Sous Chef at the always exceptional The House of Smooth Curry Thai restaurant.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your operations? Has sourcing ingredients been difficult for you? Has the operation cost become more expensive? And how about finding staff?
Covid-19 has ensured that we work with even greater protections. We must wash our hands frequently, wear a facemask, and be totally strict about food hygiene. We always, always keep clean and sanitize.
The challenge with ingredients is in delivery. Before Covid we were able to order every day, but the pandemic has meant we are limited to ordering only two times a week.
What makes your Thai food different from others?
Our menus are mostly not very easy to find elsewhere. We have rare items such as gaeng nok mor, which is free-range chicken curry with roasted herbs, banana blossom and tamarind juice. This is my mother’s recipe. The curry is highly aromatized with roasted coriander seed, cinnamon stick, and cumin seed, and we serve with fresh local vegetables.
Khao phong is glutinous rice and sesame balls with peanut and grated coconut. This dish can usually only be found in Nakhon Sawan province, my hometown. In the past, people made this sweet when they gathered for special days like weddings, Songkran, or New Year’s Day, but nowadays no one makes the dish, as it needs lots of time to prepare.
In addition, 80 percent of the produce we use is organic. We are sourcing from local farmers to support their communities. Much of the produce comes from Suk Jai Farm in Nakhon Pathom province. From there we use ingredients such as morning glory, eggplant, coriander, and papaya. In fact, we create the menu according to the seasonal vegetables that we get from the farm.
We also have our own herb garden on our terrace, where we grow items like lemongrass, baby eggplants, kaffir lime leaves, and basil leaves.
What is authentic Thai food?
Authentic Thai food should be made from original ingredients with original taste. We try to use the original ingredients and original method to maintain the original taste with elegant presentations.
Our gaeng run juan neua, spicy Pon Yang Kham beef curry with shrimp paste, onions, and basil leaves, is a dish that originated in the reign of King Rama V. We use beef cheek, the best part for making a stew, and we cook this for over three hours to ensure it is tender and tasty. Then we season with fine shrimp paste from Rayong and organic hairy fruit eggplants.
What is the most important factor in cooking?
The most important factor is the freshness of the ingredients. Fresh ingredients can make the perfect dish, with the right preparation to preserve nutrients. Our ingredients are organic and we select them ourselves from local farms to make sure that we are serving the best quality food.
What is your advice to people who want to become a chef?
A person who becomes a chef must cook with passion, keep on learning, and be more creative. Start building your cooking skills by always practicing and experimenting. Become a forward thinker. Learn from yesterday and plan for tomorrow.