Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen Queen

Chef Took at The Sea resort is a proud Samuian and an expert on local markets and recipes.

18Our featured chef this month is quite unique. For a start she's one of the few females that lead a kitchen brigade in one of the top resorts. And secondly, she was born and raised on Samui. Soawakol Boon-Phet, better known as Chef Took, heads up the team at The Sea resort on the northern coast of Samui in Bang Por just a few kilometres past Mae Nam.

    Their restaurant, Café Lebay, is fully airconditioned and sits at the front of the resort. It's used mainly for breakfast, which runs from 7:00 am until midday, and for some lunchtime respite from the noon sun. Most diners though, whether during the day or in the evening, prefer the tables around the pool and on the beach. And a private area on the soft sand can be arranged for romantic dinners for two. We spent some time with her to find out more about her life and her love of the culinary arts.


JP : Hi Chef, when did you first take an interest in cooking?

SBP : When I was young my mum had a small restaurant on Lamai Beach and I learned to cook at her side. Later on I decided that it was what I wanted to do professionally, and over the last 20 years or so I've worked in a number of resorts on Samui including Centara Villas Samui and Samui Cliff View. And I've now been at The Sea for close to two years..


JP : Tell us something about the resort please.

SBP : It was originally built as luxury condominiums and villas for sale to potential investors. However, late in the day, it was turned into a boutique resort. And each of the 27 one, two and three bedroom suites and villas are furnished as private residences would be, complete with full kitchen facilities. And the three-bedroom villas have their own private pool, garden and decking area. All the rooms are much larger than you usually find in other resorts, and it's perfect for families and for couples looking for privacy and quiet relaxation.


JP : What's a typical day like for you?

SBP :SBP: I get up at 5:00 am every day and my first port of call is the market in Mae Nam soi 6, I live quite close to it, and so I use this market for fresh vegetables. Around 6:30 am I'll get to the resort and check that everything is ready for the breakfast service, and a little later begin work on mise en place (preparations) for lunch. If I can I then take a break, and often spend an hour or two in the book store reading almost exclusively about food. I have a large collection of culinary books at home and I love browsing through them and thinking about new dishes I'd like to create. In the afternoon I like to go to Thong Yang bay on the west coast of the island. I've known the local fishermen there for a long time and, not only is the seafood very fresh, I also get it for a great price as I'm a regular customer. I'll get back to the resort for 5:00 pm and start to prepare for the dinner service. And depending on the evening, I'll get home about 10:00 pm.


JP : When buying fish at the market how can you tell that the fish is fresh, what do you look for?

SBP : First of all the eyes should be bright and clear. The eyes are the window to a truly fresh fish as they fade quickly into a grey dullness. Dull-eyed fish may be safe to eat, but they are past their prime. Next look at the fish. Does it shine? Does it look metallic and clean? Or has it dulled or have discoloured patches on it? If so, it is marginal. Also smell the fish. A fresh fish should smell like clean water or slightly briny. Under no circumstances should you buy a bad smelling fish, cooking won't improve it. Have a feel of the fish. It should be plump and firm. Press on the body of the fish and it should bounce back. Open up the gills, they should be a rich red. If the fish is old, they will turn the colour of faded bricks.


JP : What new dishes can guests expect to see on your menu this month?

SBP : This time of year is fantastic for a great many indigenous fruits, particularly from Chanthaburi province which borders Cambodia. I'll combine seasonal fruits from the province with seafood from Samui, and do a special three course menu for 950 ++ baht. To start with I'll have Chanthaburi pomelo with a Samui king prawn salad. I mix the pomelo with lemon, honey, soy sauce and crushed garlic. And then add shallots, lemongrass, spring onion, chili, coconut and almonds to the salad. For the main dish I'm going to make Samui rock lobster with a Chanthaburi mixed fruit curry on brown rice. And for dessert it will be my take on black sticky rice, mango with sesame and creamy coconut milk.


JP : When you go out to eat, what's your favourite dish to order?

SBP : I love Gaeng Som - Samui style. It's a red, and rather spicy, soup with white snapper and young coconut flower. It's one of those dishes I can't get enough of, and the little restaurant I often go to makes it perfectly. And it's nice when someone else does the cooking!


Johnny Paterson


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