Chef Gabriel Ong of Samyan: Our focus is to continue improving the food quality as we navigate through the year
One of the best street food you can find in the world, at least in our humble opinion, is Thai street food. Hawkers, food stalls, and carts are a huge part of what makes Bangkok colorful and lively. And it's this rich and vibrant cuisine that Samyan aims to offer to The Grid.
You can trust that you are only getting the best at Samyan, especially with Chef Thitid Tassanakajohn, chef of Thailand's best restaurant of 2021 (according to Asia's 50 Best) heading recipe development and Chef Gabriel Ong at the helm of the kitchen. And if you need further proof: Samyan also won the ThaiSELECT Casual Award 2020, which certifies that their menu is as authentic and close to traditional Thai street food as it can be outside of Bangkok.
So what is it like to head the kitchen of an award-winning food stall? We talked to Chef Gabriel Ong about his favorite Thai food, his breadmaking hobby, and his plans for Samyan in the future.
The Grid Food Market (TGFM): What’s your favorite Samyan dish?
Chef Gabriel Ong (GO): Pad Krapow Moo (Stir-fried holy basil pork). This was my go-to meal late at night after a busy dinner service when i was working overseas. I remember eating nothing but Krapow for 2 weeks straight! And I still make it at home when I can't think of anything else to eat.
TGFM: What is it like working with Chef ThiTid Tassanakajohn for Samyan
GO: He is very involved with all the recipes and new dishes. In fact, we lifted the recipes of our favourite dishes directly from his restaurants in Bangkok. Chef Tonn, [Chef] Mark [Nepomuceno] and I work very closely and talk almost every week to make sure we are also abreast with what is happening in Bangkok.
TGFM: Aside from Thai food, what cuisine do you love cooking?
GO: I was trained in French cuisine, and was mentored by amazing French chefs, so that will always be interesting for me. Recently, I've also been cooking a lot of Cantonese and Taiwanese dishes at home—it's a whole different art and discipline to master.
TGFM: We discovered that you also bake sourdough bread! What’s your tip for those making sourdough bread for the first time?
GO: Everyone will always have their own way of making sourdough bread. It's good to follow a formula at the beginning, but the beauty in sourdough is discovering your own method. Get to know your own starter, developing your senses to know how to adjust the feel, the smell, the look, the flavour of the bread.
TGFM: Aside from making bread and working at Samyan, what else have you been busy with this year?
GO: Something we’re very excited about, by next week we will be launching The Pad, which is a pad thai bar by Samyan (Editor's Note: The Pad is now open). So this is inspired actually by a pad thai bar that Chef Tonn also has in Bangkok. Aside from this, we’re also preparing some new menu launches underway with Tasteless. Of course, the pandemic seriously hit the industry, so everyday is a challenge to keep the food quality, motivate my teams, balance the costs, planning, and staying updated with what's happening with everyone.
TGFM: What are your plans for Samyan in 2021?
GO: Our focus is to continue improving the food quality as we navigate through the year, and come up with more interesting ways for our guests to enjoy Samyan and The Pad. Outdoor dining seems to be the perfect setup for us, so we can bring our guests to the streets of Thailand while we still can't travel. Everyday we see more and more opportunities for us to do more, to come up with new dishes, ideas, and make our favourites even more delicious and safe! We have to always be on our toes and adapt quickly, so we are happy to keep in touch with Chef Tonn to also learn how they are adapting over there.