When visiting a Thai restaurant, if you always order full-moon shrimp patties or fried greens with shrimp paste, use food from Mandalay as a comparison for its taste, or have certain standards for pricing, then perhaps this “home kitchen” isn’t for you. But if you want to better understand Thai cuisine, are curious about an ordinary Thai’s daily diet, don’t have time to run off to Thailand, and can spend between NT$800-1,000 to satisfy your cravings, then there’s a new spot in Taipei worth considering. Aside from Tainan’s Samily Home Kitchen, there’s another option, Baan Taipei, opening on Dec. 15.
「Baan Taipei」來自曼谷的「Baan」（泰文บ้าน），泰國中部人當這個字是家，它最原始的意義卻是指村落「Moo Baan」（หมู่บ้าน）。不管是家還是村落，都說明了菜色基礎來自經營者：曼谷米其林一星餐廳「Le Du」主廚Ton（ธิติฏฐ์ ‘ต้น’ ทัศนาขจร）的出身與源頭，既是外公外婆家，也是曼谷。
Baan Taipei comes from a Bangkok “Baan” (Thai: บ้าน), which is the word for ‘home’ in central Thailand, originally referring to the village Moo Baan (หมู่บ้าน). Whether it’s a home or a village, a dish depends on its maker. In this case, the chef of the Michelin one-star restaurant Le Du, Mr. Ton (ธิติฏฐ์ ‘ต้น’ ทัศนาขจร), owes his beginnings thanks both to his grandparents’ kitchen and the city of Bankok itself.
Ton’s forefathers were Hakka people who immigrated from China’s Guangdong province. Together with other ethnic Chinese immigrants, they usually dealt in business, as Ton put it, “Shoes and the like, you name it. We sold everything and anything.”Since his father’s early death, Ton had to live with his maternal grandparents, where he learned to cook from his experienced grandfather. He explained that the popular dish, Egg and Pork in Sweet Brown Sauce (ไข่พะโล้ต้มแซ่บ), was created after he grew tired of eating a stewed egg (ไข่พะโล้) every day, so boiled pork (ต้มแซ่บ) was added and voilà. “Only we came up with this combo!”, he said smiling, as if reminiscing through childhood memories. The taste is exquisite, with the sweetness of the stewed egg and the savory spicy-sour pork balancing each other out, it became a favorite for the diverse Thai palate. However, there still remains a strong sweet flavor without losing its appeal.
For Thai people, there’s nothing surprising about their food: garlic is hand-peeled, sauce is stirred, and vegetables are plucked from their front door. Even the coconut milk from southern Thailand is freshly extracted, and the sun-dried pork (หมูแดดเดียว) is first hand-cut, salted, then laid out on bamboo rugs under the sun. Just a day in the life of a Thai person.
In fact, seemingly ordinary homemade Thai food hides very extraordinary skills and tastes. Most people wouldn’t make their own shrimp sauce, but Mr. Ton makes his own on the spot, then brings it to Taiwan.
Baan’s initial success also hinges on Richie. As one of the top 50 chefs in Asia with a similar background and equally ambitious, he and Ton became good friends, even helping to recruit AJ. Ton originally was skeptical about finding a good chef in Taiwan who could truly cook Thai cuisine, but after one look at AJ’s menu, he was astonished, and promptly sent him to train at his Baan restaurant in Thailand.
Hopefully, this Thai home kitchen, whose Bangkok locale is Michelin-recommended, will change Taiwanese preconceptions about Thai food. Under Mr. Ton and AJ’s guidance, this is surely a possible feat!
Address: Lane 233, Section 1, Dunhua South Rd., Taipei