Keeping it simple

Ideal mode of cooking Involves customising a dish for Chef Sumet

Ideal mode of cooking Involves customising a dish for Chef Sumet  


Thai chef Sumet Sae-Ueng plans to offer fresh, balanced flavours at the Thai Food Festival this week

Chef Sumet Sae-Ueng, or Chef “Tee” as he is known, credits his early years with his love of food.

“I started out being the cook’s helper at home. My mother taught me to cook,” he said, adding that he considers himself lucky to be born in Chinatown. “I got to try real, authentic food there,” he said.

The chef has come down from Thailand for a Thai food festival at The Sheraton hotel. Some of the dishes on offer at the festival are mock pomegranate seeds in coconut syrup, sweet potato Thai custard and crispy fish salad with green mango. Chef Sumet explained that he selected the dishes specifically for an Indian audience. “I’ve tried to keep religious preferences in mind and have not offered pork or beef. It is a good combination of flavours, and it’s healthy and balanced,” he said.

A stint at The Oriental hotel in Bangkok opened his eyes to real cooking, he said. “I actually learned how to cook there.”

His personal style favours quick stir-fries such as pad thai (featuring rice noodles) and pad kra pao (typically with chicken and basil), and using his favourite ingredients - basil, galangal, dried red chillies, and shrimp paste. He focuses on fresh ingredients and simplicity, he said. “I cook comfort food that makes people feel at home, in a five-star hotel,” he said.

Throughout the chat, a simple love of cooking shone across. Chef Sumet’s ideal mode of cooking involves customising a dish exactly for a customer. “I don’t like to be rigid. I like interacting with the guests,” he said.

Apart from Thai food, Chef Sumet favours Italian and Indian food, it emerged. His face lit up as he spoke about the cheeses used in Italian food; the gulab jamun won a heartfelt thumbs-up. And he’s been enjoying a dosa breakfast everyday he’s been in the city. How might the typically spicy Thai flavours find a spot alongside Italian fare, which is perceived to be mild? “Italian can be spicy too,” he points out, noting that a popular street snack in Thailand involves Italian spaghetti cooked with a green curry sauce.

Is he a purist? What does he think of fusion cooking? “It depends on the situation,” he said, after considering his response. “If fusion can introduce people to a new flavour or a new cuisine, it can be useful.”

Chef Sumet displayed a similar moderateness in his views on the organic food debate. “I try to buy local, and help local farmers and the local economy,” he asserted. “But organic food can definitely drive up prices. So I focus on the local aspect.”

Towards the end of the conversation, the 39-year-old Chef revealed that he’s unused to conversation about food: “My skill of talking is reducing,” he said, adding that he prefers immersing himself in cooking rather than talking about it.

The Thai Food Festival is on for lunch and dinner at The Sheraton Hotel till July 26. Call 4252-1000 for reservations .

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 7:28:52 PM |

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