Feb 23, 2019
SOME PEOPLE LIKE TO SNACK on chips and salsa. In an ideal world, I’d keep a bowl of chef Sujira “Aom” Pongmorn’s rice-paddy crab dip in my fridge. She takes adorable little crustaceans from Sing Buri province, renders their fat with Thai herbs, returns the mix to their tiny shells and roasts it on the grill. The result, which you eat with sticky-rice balls, is a complex cream that kind of defines the beauty of Saawaan: it’s fine dining down-to-earth, creative but still decidedly Thai. The Michelin star it garnered last autumn, in its opening year, was heartily earned.
FROM LEFT: Koi pla, a ceviche-like blend of raw amberjack fish with rice powder and kaffir lime. Photo by Aaron Joel Santos; Chef Aom Pongmorn
I meet friendly Aom tableside (the whole place is small enough that you’ll get plenty of face time) when she comes by to whip up her koi pla, a raw-fish salad made of local amberjack, Thai herbs, kaffir lime, and roasted sticky rice powder that enhances with a satisfying crunch. Aom has worked under classic-European chefs and nouveau-Thai inventors, but she grew up on Bangkok’s historic Charoen Krung Road amid a family of traditional cooks, and learned to use a charcoal firepot at age six. So don’t look for any fluff or foam or barely-there bites on this woman’s menu. She has concocted substantial fare for a 10-course tasting menu, any five of which would satisfy your hunger (I’m looking at you, squid noodles with holy basil, squid ink, king oyster mushrooms and seven-day-cured organic–egg yolk).
You might be tempted to try to get away with the melty, marinated, grilled Iberico Secreto—it’s all you could want in a meal—for dessert, but do save room for pastry chef Arisara “Paper” Chongphanitkul’s concoctions; they include a pumpkin coconut number that tastes like Thanksgiving.
saawaan.com; tasting menu Bt2,450.