Chef Bee Satongun has had a remarkable year. Elit Vodka named her Best Female Chef, her “heirloom Thai cuisine” restaurant, Paste Bangkok, which she co-owns with her husband, was awarded a Michelin star and She recently opened another branch in Laos. Satongun talks with Southeast Asia Globe about the importance of taste and research when creating the perfect balance of flavours
“It’s very, very difficult to truly be able to taste. It’s not just about memory but also your genetic coding that contributes to what is stored within you. To truly taste, your mind must be clear and hold taste in the highest esteem. It may just be an afterthought because you want to distract the customer’s eyes by fancy visuals, but you have to know how to produce a dish that isn’t one-dimensional in overall taste. Instead, it must be layered with flavours you want to highlight in the first bite as well as the flavours of the aftermath. Being able to balance life (plants, herbs, etc.) and death (fermentation, curing, etc.) on a plate ends up producing complexities of flavour.
“Extremely deep cultural, market and gastronomical research went on for just over 11 years before we launched Paste. It really came down to delivering on a culinary experience that you couldn’t find anywhere else. Paste is very much a company that goes with the flow. My day consists of watching over who I am currently mentoring, so most of the time, it is teaching and talking. I am also in a constant state of creativity, so I am usually thinking of a new dish. I usually produce a new dish every one or two weeks, so in my spare moments, I research the ingredients or methods required for the completion of the dish. I aim to perfect and pursue the goal of getting Paste to a more delicate and refined level than 2018.
“Team building and team morale is vital to be able to gain consistency and to be able to progress at any kind of real advancement with a clear, positive mind and the correct amount of stress for stimulation, but we have a high retention rate of staff, so my days run quite smoothly.
“Thai cuisine was originally a hunter-gatherer food and requires a lot of understanding and research to gain a bird’s-eye view. There are tremendous dishes from the northern, southern and eastern regions of Thailand that and still unknown, and unfortunately, around 70% of these ingredients have been lost due to deforestation. I think it is just a very small portion of Thai cuisine that has been exposed to the world so far.”
This article was published in the December 2018 edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. To subscribe to our newsletter, click here.