Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen King and Queen

East meets West - but you won’t find any fusion at Poppies Samui Restaurant.

 

15If you’ve just driven down the hectic Chaweng Beach Road, your nerves might be more than a little frayed. But as you enter Poppies Samui and walk through their lush, tropical gardens towards the restaurant, you feel a sense of peace come over you, like you’ve stepped into another world. The wooden restaurant pavilion was actually built in Ayutthaya, the old Thai capital, and then re-assembled on Koh Samui. You would never guess though, the structure is rock solid and looks like it could weather a good few sea storms without so much as a scratch, and yet it blends in so beautifully with the gardens.

      After meeting the General Manager, John Ens, I was looking forward to meeting the restaurant’s chef and was surprised to be told that they had not one, but two head chefs. Here at Poppies, they’ve ensured that both the Thai and International dishes are something to write home about. But stop before you think it’s some weird mixed-fusion menu. Each chef has a different area of responsibility. Khun Wan, who has been with Poppies for over 18 years, is responsible for the Thai menu and Khun Noi, who trained for many years under chefs of various nationalities, and has been with Poppies for 12 years, is responsible for the International menu. This length of employment for a chef is rare, and it just shows the level of dedication and loyalty these two chefs feel for Poppies and the customers that dine there.

      Having an International menu doesn’t just mean adding an omelette here and a quick fish and chips there. Khun Noi has created dishes such as roasted duck breast with plum and strawberry sauce, feta cheese and a rocket salad; chargrilled snow fish with light coconut sauce and pumpkin potato cake; or how does catch of the day steamed with a mango, pomelo and mizuma salad sound. I absolutely love Thai food and am sometimes surprised when people come all the way to Thailand and eat only Western food but I’m very tempted to sneak back and try that duck breast.

      Khun Noi previously trained under four expatriate executive chefs at Poppies. In 2009, he was promoted to head chef of the ‘Western Kitchen’ and quickly made his mark. He uses only locally grown or sourced ingredients (except for the lamb chops and steaks from Australia), and you won’t find any additives or preservatives in his food. He’s perfected his Italian dishes to such an extent that recently some Italian customers caused a bit of a stir, because they were convinced that the restaurant was hiding an Italian chef in the kitchen.

       Originally from the south of Thailand, Khun Noi worked previously at Silver Sands for six years but is now very obviously enjoying his time at Poppies. Besides his love of cooking, Khun Noi gets a lot of enjoyment out of training his staff to improve their skills. Working long hours takes its toll and even though Khun Noi still cooks at home, on his day off he can be found bobbing around in the bay doing some fishing, thinking of new and exciting ways to tweak his current dishes or create new ones.

      Khun Wan was taught to cook by her great aunt and cooks the very dishes and recipes that she learnt while growing up on Samui. Her style of cooking is classed as ‘southern Thai’ and you’ll find a great variety of authentic dishes to suit all tastes on her menu. She worked at Samui Paradise before joining Poppies at the tender age of 17, and has been creating mouth-watering dishes ever since.

      The specialty on Khun Wan’s Thai menu is the ‘Kantoke’. Described as ‘A balanced selection of small Thai dishes served on a rattan tray – perfect for sharing’, it just shows again how the chefs here have catered for their customers. The Kantoke gives you and your dinner partner an opportunity to taste more than just one main course each, and you have three different Kantokes to choose from: the Traditional Kantoke, the Seafood Kantoke and the Vegetarian Kantoke.

         Khun Wan explained that southern Thai food is very distinctive, and differs from other regions of Thailand. For instance, it mainly uses coconut oil rather than sunflower or corn oil. The abundance of coconuts in this region means that parts of the fruit are used a lot in the cooking. Only local ingredients are used in all the Thai dishes. And starting from next month, Khun Wan will offer a cooking class. What a great way to learn how to create that southern Thai taste at home.

         Both Khun Wan and Khun Noi work continuously to improve their cooking skills by travelling to Bangkok to attend courses, watching cooking or food programs on TV or surfing the internet for new ideas and styles. Between them, they head up a team of 15, who all help contribute to the delicious dishes that are served to guests in the restaurant. Their love of cooking and the need to share this love was shown recently when they trained four staff members, who were previously on dishwashing duties, to become cooks.

         So, share in that love and head down to Poppies. You’re sure to find something on either menu that’ll tickle your taste buds.

         

Colleen Setchell


 


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