Hubert Burda Media

The Siam: Keeping Food Simple

The new menus at luxury boutique hotel The Siam are promising something Bangkok’s gourmet food scene has been sorely missing.

Over the past several months, The Siam’s new executive chef Damri Muksombat and general manager Jason M. Friedman have slaved away creating a compelling new menu that combines the world’s best ingredients and cooking techniques with the rustic feasibility that seems sorely lacking from the city’s high-end dining scene.

While Damri is a recent addition to the hotel, he is not a newcomer to Friedman’s team; the two worked together at the Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle for many years and are close friends. They have a long history of travelling around Thailand together, sampling cuisine and soaking up cooking knowledge from quaint food shacks and unexpected places.

The result is a brilliant Thai menu at Chon, The Siam’s flagship Thai restaurant, and an inspiring Western-Thai fusion at Deco Bar & Bistro, an art deco-themed eatery carrying international favourites. 

Every dish seems to follow the same mantra: simple, hearty and fresh. The portions aren’t microscopic, they’re generous, but you might still find yourself indulging in more than one.

The Yum Takrai (spicy lemongrass salad) is light and fresh with the perfect balance of finely chopped lemon grass, plum sugar, chili and crispy fried salmon. It’s a finely chopped textural sensation that doesn’t overwhelm the palate, despite a decent chili kick. 

Each of Chef Damri’s dishes are steeped in history and tradition, with a little personal twist. The Khao Soi (coconut curry noodle soup) at Chon had our Thai photographer reminiscing about his mother’s home cooking and the days before the “sweet movement” took over Thailand – thanks to the in-house roasted chili paste and sous vide-style chicken that literally falls off the bone.

While every recipe on the menu is sure to impress even the most staunch Thai traditionalists, The Siam’s Khao Soi Noi, a steamed rice crepe, will probably take everyone by surprise. If you haven’t heard of Khao Soi Noi you’re not alone, it’s a little-known Shan dish made on the streets of the Mae Sai District in Chiang Rai. Friedman discovered it in a small food stall over 16 years ago while visiting Mae Sai. He spent years trying to coax the recipe out of the stall owner, but she wouldn’t budge. Friedman and Damri tried replicating the dish in their own kitchen, but there was always something missing.

Through years of effort, and several trips to Mae Sai, Friedman and Damri finally got the recipe when the woman decided to close her shop – they managed to pick up a handful of her personal cooking pans at the same time. To this day, the dish is prepared at The Siam exactly how it was made in Mae Sai for decades. 

As for the flavour? Devine. The rice crape has a perfectly soft centre with a light crunch on the outside, while the pork, chili, beans and spices that fill the inside add the kick, substance and texture necessary to complete the experience. A memorable taste of history, indeed.

But the culinary changes at The Siam go so much further than a few Thai classics. Whether it’s a traditional thin-crust pizza with Moo Daeng (red pork) on top, or a pasta carbonara with crispy pork instead of bacon, every dish is approachable, delicious and inspired by Thai cooking traditions.

It’s not a 10-course Michelin-star mega show, and it’s not meant to be. It’s just good food that pays respect to the diverse culinary culture this country offers – no pyrotechnics required.

A welcome breath of fresh air.