In a world where chefs are celebrities and channels like “The Food Network” bombard us with culinary propaganda 24/7, food has become something more than just fuel to propel us through the day. Where you eat, how the food is prepared, what it looks like and where it comes from are as important as the flavor.
Food isn’t just food; its culture, its passion, it is even trendy and fashionable. This past decade, no trend has been more popular than “fusion” food. Just like musicians are jamming two seemingly unrelated songs together and calling it a “mash up”, chefs the world over are marrying cuisines to create such apparitions as “Korean Tacos”, “Danish Pizzas” and “Sushi Burgers”.
Upon first laying eyes on the fabulous dishes coming out of the kitchen at New Nordic’s Kong Juu Chinese Restaurant, it would be easy to mistake them for some of this high fashion food. Wave after wave of gorgeous and beautifully presented dishes that are almost too pretty to eat.
One might think, “This is Chinese food?” Many westerners enjoy the flavors of China but most embrace their own homegrown versions of this cuisine. Piles of fried meat on top of rice and noodles with stir fried vegetables is what many Europeans and North Americans consider Chinese food.
Even more knowledgeable and well-travelled westerners who have been to China agree, Chinese cuisine is much more than this but isn’t necessarily the most visually appealing or artistic fare. Real Chinese chefs say their food is all about the ingredients and the flavors.
Kong Juu’s Chef Krist couldn’t agree more but adds, “I don’t make fusion or fashion food, I make authentic Chinese food. But why shouldn’t Chinese food be beautiful?”
Kittipong Sathaworat, AKA Chef Krist, is the Executive Chef at the Chinese Restaurant and Breakfast Restaurants for The New Nordic Group on Pratumnak Hill. Krist is a native of Bangkok who came up the way chefs should, through the kitchens and dining rooms in busy city restaurants packed with hungry customers and staffed by creative cooks.
He began his career in several popular Chinese restaurants in Bangkok and ultimately landed at The Ambassador Hotel where his friend was Food & Beverage Director. This is where Krist became totally immersed in the food business learning about European cuisine as well as how restaurants and industrial sized kitchens really work.
Eventually the chef got back to his roots and cooking authentic Chinese food when he became the turnaround chef at the Grand Diamond Hotel in Poipet, Thailand near the Cambodian border. It’s at this restaurant (now called The Grand China Hotel) he developed his vision of what Chinese food should be. “I call it Contemporary Chinese” Krist beams. “All the authentic Chinese flavors but with modern presentation”.
While Chef Krist isn’t willing to compromise on ingredients or flavors, his culture-correct cuisine has been tailored for visitors and guests to Thailand’s favorite seaside resort. Since seafood is abundant and available fresh every morning, Kong Juu offers an incredible array of dishes including a huge steamed “Seafood Lover’s Basket” including Canadian Lobster and crayfish.
The basket comes with four dipping sauces that offer a “taste of China” including a pungent and spicy Szechuan sauce and a hearty chili-paste from Shanghai. Because the crayfish are available live, Krist is developing several dishes featuring the mini-lobster-like crustaceans.
Along with the seafood bounty, Kong Juu offers an all-u-can-eat Dim Sum special on Sundays. The Dim Sum treats at Kong Juu are all made-to-order from fresh ingredients. It may take a few minutes to prepare but rest assured, the shrimp, crab and fish stuffed into the bite-sized morsels are bursting with juicy flavor.
So obsessed with fresh ingredients is Chef Krist that he has started his own herb and vegetable garden right on the premises. Tender organic lettuce leaves, sweet and fragrant herbs and even piquant little chilies travel from garden to table in a flash. “We plan to expand our garden” boasts Chef Krist. “More flowers, more herbs and vegetables for more creative dishes”.
Other specialties from the creative mind of Chef Krist are duck dishes, both traditional and modern. “Our feature duck dish is Smoked Duck with Jellyfish and Sesame Oil” says Krist. The chef also points out that Kong Juu features many tasty and authentic vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Additionally, it appears that besides having a creative culinary mind, Chef Krist is also quite adept at the business and management side of the food business. Kong Juu is a beautifully designed restaurant with two main dining rooms.
While one is set up for intimate small party dining, the other is wide open and easily arranged for large parties or even business meeting and seminars. “We often host business events” says Krist. “The big banquet room is perfect for these kind of parties and our staff is always prepared for large events”.
For Westerners that still think Chinese food comes in a white carton, it is definitely worth a trip up Pratumnak Hill to Kong Juu. Chef Krist will open your eyes to what real Chinese food tastes like and share his vision of what it should look like as well. Be prepared to try something different. Open your mind to experience something ancient and new at the same time. Fresh food that is as pleasing to the eye as it is to the pallet. No “con-fusion” … this is Chinese food.