Prin Polsuk is rather a softly-spoken man. However, with a great deal of self-assurance:
“I want to show the world what Thai food is really like.
The head chef of the nahm in Bangkok is truly inspired by the idea that Thai cuisine can be elevated to a new, higher level – by reigniting its old values.
On the map of international haute cuisine, you will actually come across the name nahm twice. The first is in London, where star chef David Thompson was awarded the world’s first Michelin star for a Thai restaurant at the turn of the millennium, causing quite a stir in the industry. And the other is in Bangkok, where Thompson proved with the opening of his second nahm restaurant in 2010, that he was capable of repeating the success of his modern Thai cuisine in Thailand itself.
Since 2014, however, Prin Polsuk has been in charge there in his capacity as head chef. After attracting a great deal of praise as Thompson’s sous chef during the preceding years, the Thai-born chef, who had deeply impressed Thompson with his abilities, ideas and philosophy, was named by the Australian as his “representative” in Bangkok. By the end of his first year, he had repaid the trust placed in him in truly impressive style: he achieved a star in the Michelin Guide and seventh place in San Pellegrino’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015, which also led to nahm being named Asia’s Best Restaurant.
What was it that so impressed the critics?
It was the unbelievable spectrum of different tastes and flavours that Polsuk seemingly effortlessly combines on the plate. Raw food goes hand-in-hand with cooked food, sweet with sour, spicy with mild, creamy with crispy – and all that is often found in just one dish.
And so the menu includes, for example, smoked catfish, which Polsuk chops with fresh shallots and serves alongside spicy beef from the grill and vegetables. Or kaffir lime in a kipper sauce with sweet pork, savoury fish dumplings and bamboo poached in coconut milk. Unusual combinations that you really have to experience in order to truly understand the way in which they naturally come together on the palate to create a harmonious whole.
It’s all about getting the balance right. Thai food is possibly the most complex and complicated cuisine in the world. As a chef, you must be prepared to immerse yourself in a dish and its flavours, doing things over and over again, in order to find the perfect balance.
Prin Polsuk finds the sophisticated art of Thai cuisine to be missing from many other Thai restaurants. “For the last 50 years or so, Thai cuisine has enjoyed a great deal of popularity all over the world, and new establishments are opening up everywhere. The result of this is that people no longer know what Thai food really tastes like”. For the majority of people, the culinary horizon ends at red and green curry – and other than spiciness, these dishes fail to provide any kind of taste experience.
That is why Prin Polsuk believes it to be his calling to breathe new life into the old school of Thai cuisine at nahm. He leafs through antique cookbooks and tries to comprehend the full complexity of the recipes and dishes. Of course, this does not mean that Polsuk shuns new developments. That is why his philosophy focuses on the scientific search for the roots of Thai cuisine, whilst keeping a constant eye on the present and the future. An example of this is the occasional nod to modern Thai street food that can be found in some of his dishes.
One thing is for sure: you need to experience Prin Polsuk’s dishes before you are able to fully understand them. And you will have the opportunity to do just that in May, when he brings his old school Thai cuisine to Salzburg for his guest chef appearance at Restaurant Ikarus in Hangar-7.
ServusTV: Culinary Heights at Ikarus on ServusTV
Each month at Salzburg’s two Michelin-starred Restaurant Ikarus, a different top international chef creates the menu. For this globally unique concept, Hangar-7 executive chef Martin Klein visits the cream of the crop, takes a look behind the scenes of haute cuisine, and is let in on some exciting culinary secrets. “Culinary Heights at Ikarus” offers a unique glimpse into the world of high-end cuisine and provides an interesting portrait of each guest chef, their culinary philosophy, and the food culture of their country.