Care for your cuisine with Pitaya Phanphensophon
Pitaya Phanphensophon may run a huge international chain, but the Mango Tree main man stays loyal to a philosophy that served his family well from their humble beginnings: Fresh is best.
Pitaya is the son of a Chinese couple who emigrated to Thailand from the foodie province of Canton in the 1950s.
The parents set up the tiny 20-seat Coca, Bangkok’s oldest hotpot restaurant.
Pitaya’s father Srichi introduced the hotpot method of cooking, in which raw ingredients are cooked at the table in simmering metal pots of stock.
Pitaya recalls how his parents would buy ingredients in the morning, ready to be served up as delicious Cantonese cuisine in the evening.
He says: “We always emphasise buying raw ingredients fresh, and a lot of the time they are abused in the restaurants themselves.
“They leave their food out too long, they don’t keep it the correct temperature.”
That tiny restaurant gave its name to Pitaya’s Coca Group, which owns the Mango Tree chain - including its branches in Souk Al Bahar and Mirdif City Centre, Dubai - and the revered China White restaurant in London.
Pitaya may have gone about modernising the family business after studying economics in Canada, but he has stayed true to his roots.
“You don’t need to go out and buy half a kilo of curry paste if you only use it once and the rest you chuck in the refrigerator,” he says.
“That is why from my cookbooks I give everything from scratch even for stock Thai curries, I always believe if you are cooking at home you are cooking for someone you know and care for, you always have to make it fresh for the day - it does take extra effort.”
Always thinking about fresh concepts too, Chef Pitaya hints at a future development he has in mind. It is an evolution of the hotpot dining style as he fears Western sensibilities are not ready for that yet.
“We have found a new concept we are going to do, change it to grilling - a bit like the Korean-style,” he reveals.
GOONG GRATIEM - PAN-FRIED PRAWNS WITH GARLIC BUTTER
Ingredients (Serves 2)
6 medium prawns (about 190g total)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
1 pinch chopped jalapeno pepper
1 tbsp white wine
1 tbsp (20g) butter
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley for garnish
1/2 lemon, cut
>> De-vein prawns and rinse, pat dry.
>> Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic, jalapeno pepper, white wine and prawns. Sauté until
fragrant and prawns are cooked
>> Knock back the dough and divide it into six pieces. Take a piece of dough and cut it into three. Roll each piece into sausage shapes about
20-25cm long. Pinch the three together at one end, then plait the strands and pinch together at the other end. Repeat with remaining dough.
>> Transfer to plate, garnish
with chopped parsley and
decorate with lemon wedges.