When Maenam opened in Kits in 2009, the city's food scene was abuzz with excitement. People couldn't wait to get in to try its elevated, modern Thai dishes, from hot and sour soup and chicken satay to lobster clay pot and whole fish. Stocked with ingredients like bamboo, tamarind leaves, Thai basil, galangal, and fish sauce, the kitchen is still directed by executive chef Angus An and his wife, Kate. More than a decade later, they've managed to maintain the high standards of authenticity and quality thay they set out from the get-go.
Now, you can have your go at making things like green papaya salad, pad Thai, Panaeng curry, and coconut shave ice—as well as more challenging items such as squid-ink cupcakes, uni sundae, or coconut-cream relish of fermented pork and spot-prawn tomalley—with Maenam, the cookbook (Appetite by Random House).
An, who also runs Longtail Kitchen, Fat Mao Noodles, Sen Pad Thai, and Freebird Chicken Shack, and who's a partner in Popina Canteen, takes readers on a culinary journey from the busy street-food stalls of Bangkok to the charcoal grills of Chiang Mai in the book (with words and photos by Joie Alvaro Kent and Darren Chuang). If you've been fortunate enough to have visited Thailand and ravenously eaten your way through it, you might find the the country's extraordinary flavours and colourful ingredients coming back to mind in vivid detail; if memories could sizzle, this book would light the flame. An's recollections of travelling throughout his wife's homeland make for delicious reading.
There are some very personal revelations in the book. For instance, An shares how he and Kate opened Maenam only after the heartbreaking closure of their previous restaurant, Gastropod. Despite the latter's acclaim, it simply couldn’t weather the storm of the global recession. That much has long been public knowledge. But we didn't know that those early years at Maenam were hard for An. He struggled emotionally and admits his confidence and passion for cooking hit a low point. Once he was ready to lift himself back up, he became a dedicated student of Thai cuisine. His pursuit of exciting tastes using pure ingredients has been relentless, and his determination to develop his own unique style within one of the world's greatest cuilnary traditions is admirable.
Georgia Straight wine columnist Kurtis Kolt contributes a brief chapter on wine at the Maenam table. Plus, aspiring home cooks will love the How To sections: How to prepare a lobster, source spot prawns, prepare a crab, and shuck an oyster.
Maenam comes out on May 5.