Treat Your Senses With An Experimental Thai Omakase
Real estate mogul Nattakorn Changrew and Sorrento's Phongpat Sutthipong, an unsuspecting pair, recently teamed up to vie for the title of The World’s Most Experimental Bartender (WMEB) competition. Hosted by whisky brand Glenfiddich, this year's competition, under the theme of Deep Sea Experimental, sought to find the better answer to the question of blending single malt whisky with seafood in the most creative method possible.
The heir of Nichada Thani, Nattakorn makes a comfortable living by running his parent’s business, but he has also never let go of a childhood obsession with aquatic creatures. Joining forces with Phongpat, a food and drink connoisseur who also happens to be his dear friend for the competition, the pair created a Thai-fish omakase infused with Glenfiddich’s. Blending beautifully science, sustainability and tradition and then breaking it, chef Nattakorn proved to the world that Southeast Asian fish can be just as delectable as their Japanese counterparts. The part-time fisherman revealed that it is the ikejime killing technique (killing the fish quickly by insertion of spike to the hindbrain) that makes Japanese fish superior. Following the Japanese tradition of fishery, Nattakorn travelled throughout Southeast Asia, hunting for both common and exotic catch to be used in his menu and using every single part of the fish, from flesh to scales.
One of Nattakorn's starter dishes, for instance, utilises the gills, which is usually thrown away. This part of the fish actually makes a perfect imitation for shark fin. Served in a special broth made with dry fish and whiskey, the gill is accompanied with a collagen ball on a spine bone and a special blend to complete the set. Working with Phongpat, whiskey is blended into the food in every way possible. Another way Glenfiddich was used is to age the flesh of different fish.
Ultimately, it is the ikejime that really made the difference. The simple Tilapia rarely consumed uncooked is simply delicious, its flesh sweet, firm and without the tiniest hint of odour. Folk fermentation technique from Northeastern Thailand is used with a rare, gigantic Salween Rita, also known as the Pig Fish, producing a pleasant porcine texture. More unusual bites include that unconventional flesh of freshwater Paroon shark and the Goliath Grouper—both fished out of Nichada Thani’s pond—as well as well-known favorites like purple sea urchin, scallop and truffle. The meal ends in a brilliant and truly sustainable snack of deep-fried fish scales and baked catfish tamago baked, a balanced mix of savoury and sweet.
Nattakorn Changrew serves his seasonal catch from his journeys at his restaurant Kaijin at Nichada Thani.