Thai Flavor: Hot and Sour, Savory and Sweet


2016 / May

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Scott Williams

Thai cuisine has been spicing up Taiwan’s restaurant industry since 1990. In a powerful testament to local restaurant-goers’ fondness for Thai food, the Thai Trade Center in Taipei says there are currently more than 2000 Thai restaurants operating in Taiwan.

But not every chef can master the nuances of the cuisine. Many people believe that only Thais can cook Thai dishes properly, so restaurants advertising authentic Thai food often hire Thai chefs to prepare it.

Since writing about food without actually tasting it is a waste of ink, we personally sampled the offerings from several of Taiwan’s Thai restaurants for this feature.

 Sudsaidee Phonlaphat

Born in 1975 in northern Thailand’s Surin Province, chef Sudsaidee Phonlaphat is better known as “Chef Ah-Ming” in Taiwan, where he has worked for many years. In fact, he has been the executive chef for Sukhothai, the Thai restaurant in the Sheraton Grand Taipei Hotel, since 2013.

Chef Ah-Ming left home at the age of 13 to work and study in Bangkok. He spent his early years there working part-time at a series of restaurants, picking up all the techniques used in those kitchens in about 18 months. He recalls going to work two hours early every day to complete his own tasks before anyone else got there. He could then use his actual shift to go from station to station in the kitchen, helping others and learning. 

Having spent his youth working in a variety of restaurants, Chef Ah-Ming was hired by the Bangkok Sheraton at age 21, promoted to chef at 25, then recruited to work in Taiwan at 26. When he was 30, he became the Sheraton Grand Hotel Taipei’s youngest chef, and went on to open his own restaurant with his friend Preecha Rumdubsee in 2010. That restaurant, Siam Kitchen, now has a second location. 

Chef Ah-Ming keeps his Thai dishes very true to the originals they are based on, adjusting only the levels of spiciness and fattiness to better suit Taiwanese palates. For example, authentic Massaman curry is made by simmering peanuts in coconut milk until they release their fat. The technique gives the dish an intense and sweetish flavor, but also results in a layer of oil at the top. For the version Chef Ah-Ming serves in Taiwan, he shortens the cooking time and adds pumpkin. His blending of the intensity of curry with the sweetness of the pumpkin has given rise to one of his restaurant’s signature dishes: Pumpkin Curry. Similarly, chefs in Thailand serve raw oysters with hot-and-sour sauce drizzled directly onto them. Recognizing that not everyone in Taiwan is comfortable eating raw oysters, Chef Ah-Ming created Hot-and-Sour Fried Oysters, which are lightly dusted in flour and then deep fried. His Taiwanese patrons find the dish more palatable, and it’s still delicious.

Northern Thai dishes in Taipei

Thai Made is a Taipei restaurant specializing in authentic northern Thai village cuisine, with a name that makes plain its owner’s vision.

The owner, Liu Shun’an, is a former interior designer whose passion for fine dining led him into the restaurant business. He was just 27 when he met Chef Ah-Qian (“Wichian”), a Thai chef from Chiang Mai with more than 30 years of experience, and made his first foray into the industry. Liu recalls that Chef Ah-Qian took an immediate liking to him, and agreed to partner up in spite of their age difference. Chef Ah-Qian’s skill in the kitchen, coupled with Liu’s design expertise, has helped reshape Taiwan’s Thai restaurants, turning them from back-alley holes-in-the-wall into fashionable, upscale eateries.

The two collaborated again in 2011 to bring the village cuisine of northern Thailand to Taipei’s restaurant scene. “Northern Thai is the real Thai cuisine,” says Liu. He and Chef Ah-Qian traveled to northern Thailand together prior to opening Thai Made. There, the chef used local ingredients to cook Liu northern-style dishes unknown in Taiwan, and convinced him to bring northern Thai food to Taiwan.

Chef Ah-Qian demonstrated the preparation of Crispy Hot-and-Sour Fish, which involves frying a Japanese sea bass, then drizzling it with a sauce made with lemongrass, lime leaves, cilantro, fish sauce, and lime juice. It provides a delicious example of the hot-and-sour flavors of northern Thailand. Seafood Steamed in Coconut features a mix of seafood that is first fried with coconut milk and beaten eggs, then ladled into a coconut shell. The fragrance of the coconut coupled with the intensity of the curry makes it an absolute delight. The restaurant is also the only one in Taiwan to offer Chilled Banana Flowers, a seasonal dish previously known only to connoisseurs of Thai street food.

Royal court cuisine

Thai & Thai, a restaurant serving Thai royal court cuisine that was regarded as Taiwan’s most authentic Thai restaurant, closed ten years ago when the Mandarina Crown Hotel underwent renovations. The restaurant reopened in the same hotel (now called the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Taipei) in July 2015.

Lin Ming-chun, the restaurant’s financial backer, is an ethnically Chinese Thai who demands that the restaurant serve authentically Thai dishes. Thai & Thai imports all of its ingredients and seasonings from Thailand—even down to the palm sugar often used in cold dishes and curries—to ensure that it serves authentically Thai flavors. 

Thai & Thai’s menu offers the flavors of northern, central and southern Thailand, and its chef’s specials include dishes unavailable at other restaurants. Assistant chef Prajuab Jermkhontod says that some of the dishes require many steps to make. Pandan Chicken is a case in point. Its preparation involves marinating deboned leg meat, wrapping it in pandan leaves (which add an exotic flavor), steaming it, and then frying it. The restaurant’s Spicy and Sour Tiger Prawn Soup, a culinary gold medal winner in Thailand, combines fresh prawns with a hot-and-sour soup stock that patrons describe as heavenly. 

Thai Select certified

“Thai cuisine’s flavors are entirely the product of natural ingredients,” says Chef Ah-Ming. “The spiciness comes from chili peppers, the sourness from lime juice, and the fragrance from lemongrass and galangal. There are no artificial additives. It’s a healthy cuisine.”

“Thai food blends sweet, sour, savory and spicy,” says Prajuab Jermkhontod. “The four combine to create a very balanced flavor in the mouth.”

“What makes Thai cuisine unique is its marinating process,” says Liu Shun’an. “Spices and marination transform ordinary ingredients, imbuing them with delightfully different flavors.”

There’s a reason Thai food has become popular all over the world. Its simple ingredients and variety of seasonings present the taste buds with an exquisite, multi-layered feast.

To ensure that people living outside of Thailand have the opportunity to enjoy authentic Thai food, the Thai government has introduced a certification program it calls “Thai Select.” Nannatee Wiboonchutikula, director of the Thai Trade Center in Taipei, says that restaurants seeking the certification are evaluated by Thai officials stationed in-country. These officials examine each restaurant’s menu, the flavor of its dishes, the sources of its ingredients, the quality of its chefs, its overall cleanliness, and even its decor before issuing a certificate. Next time you visit a Thai restaurant, check to see if it’s Thai Select!

Relevant articles

Recent Articles

繁體中文 日文

暹羅廚房 台灣飄香

文‧鄧慧純 圖‧林格立






來自泰國東北 Surin省的李明芢(Sudsaidee Phonlaphat),在台灣大家稱他「阿明師」,1975年次的他,38歲就當上台北喜來登飯店SUKHOTHAI泰式料理餐廳的行政主廚,靠的是他經年累月的真功夫。





「泰美泰國原始料理」是以泰北地區的部落菜為特色的泰式餐廳,從英文名「THAI MADE」看得出老闆堅持泰原味的企圖。已故的美食作家王宣一也曾多次探訪,並在《行走的美味》書中記上一筆。






10年前,以提供泰國皇室料理、被譽為「全台最道地美味泰菜」的「Thai & Thai」因中泰賓館改建而歇業,2015年7月「Thai & Thai」重新在東方文華酒店開幕,餐廳廚師也回任,受訪的副主廚布洛伯說:「這10年,他去了印度、新加坡、中國大陸,就是等著『Thai & Thai』再開幕。」

餐廳的出資者林命群是泰國華僑,因此「Thai & Thai」特別強調泰國的原汁原味,香料、食材全部都由泰國進口,以保持最正統的泰式原味,連涼拌、咖哩常用的棕櫚糖都是來自泰國,「因為這一小勺就會影響了料理的風味」,布洛伯說。由於對泰式原味的堅持,對於吃不了辣的客人,餐廳堅持不調整料理辣度,反而會建議客人改點如「泰南乾燒肉」這類不辣的料理。

「Thai & Thai」的菜色匯集了泰國北、中、南部的特色,在主廚推薦的菜單中,多是外頭餐廳吃不到的私房菜。像「七葉蘭燒雞」,無骨雞腿肉醃製過後,以七葉蘭葉包裹蒸過再炸,七葉蘭特殊的香味撲鼻,讓人吮指回味;「馬頭魚炒干貝」是連在泰國都少見的豪華宮廷料理;「特級泰式冬蔭功酸辣蝦湯」是獲得泰國廚藝金牌大賞的湯品,除了食材採用新鮮的明蝦,又酸又辣的湯頭直讓人讚嘆「此味只應天上有」。






泰國政府多年來推出「泰精選」(Thai Select)餐廳認證,泰國商務辦事處的處長陳春蘭說,「泰精選」餐廳需經泰國駐各國的代表專業審查,考究味道、衛生條件、原料來源、廚師素質、餐廳裝潢、供應菜色等項目後,才會由官方發出「泰精選」的認證,讓泰國境外的地區都能嚐到正統的泰國美味,下回走訪泰國餐廳,不妨留意看看。                                                               

辛味・酸味・甘味と香り ——台湾で愛されるタイ料理

文・鄧慧純 写真・林格立 翻訳・久保 恵子





Sudsaidee Phonlaphat(中国名、李明芢)はタイ東北部のスリン県出身で、台湾では阿明師と呼ばれている。1975年生れの彼は、長年の経験を買われ、38歳でシェラトン・グランデ台北のタイ料理レストラン「SUKHOTHAI」のエグゼクティブ・シェフにまで上り詰めた。





「泰美泰国原始料理(THAI MADE)」は、タイ北部料理を看板とし、本場の味を守るレストランである。






タイの宮廷料理を提供して、台湾で最も本場に近いタイ料理と称された「Thai & Thai」が、中泰賓館の改築により終了してから10年、20157月にマンダリン・オリエンタル台北に、かつてのシェフを迎えて再びオープンした。

オーナーの林命群はタイ華僑で、本場の味を特に重視しており、「Thai & Thai」では香辛料から食材まですべてタイから輸入し、伝統のタイの味を守っている。辛さを調整していないので、辛いものが苦手なお客様には、あまり辛くない南部の料理を勧める。

Thai & Thai」はタイの北部、中部から南部の料理を集めていて、シェフのお勧めメニューは、ほかのレストランでは食べられないレシピが多い。たとえばチキンのパンダンリーフ包み揚げは、鶏の腿肉を香辛料に漬け、パンダンリーフに包んで蒸してから揚げるもので、パンダンリーフの独特の香りが食欲をそそる。アマダイと貝柱の炒め物はタイでも珍しい豪華な宮廷料理だし、スペシャル・トムヤムクンは、タイの料理コンクールで金賞を取ったスープである。新鮮なブラックタイガーを使い、酸味と辛味の効いたスープは天上の味と絶賛されている。





X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!