First published on 5 Aug 2010. Updated on 5 Oct 2010.
Upon meeting Soht & Baay’s chef Apasara, her sense of style is the first thing to draw your attention: dyed red hair with an asymmetrical haircut and hot pink Doc Marten boots which brighten up her drab white coat. Her name card reads simply: ‘Ms. Apasara’. ‘No last name?’ I ask. She utters her polysyllabic tongue-twister of a name. The Thai chef opts for the mononym, sparking comparisons to female icons like Cher, Beyoncé and Madonna.
For the past 25 years, Thais have been flocking to Apasara’s beachside seafood restaurant Kung Sod-Pu Pen in her hometown of Chonburi, willing to make the 80km drive out of Bangkok to consume her creations. Seven months ago, this gifted chef moved to Singapore for her first international venture in a 120-seater restaurant at ION Orchard.
Growing up in Chonburi with six brothers and sisters, Apasara ate four meals a day. Without a refrigerator, everything came straight from their garden or from the fishermen’s nets. Her mother cooked using the best and freshest ingredients available, and Apasara continues this philosophy, strictly following her mother’s recipes.
In the kitchen, there are no commercial deep fryers or industrial cooking equipment; she prefers domestic pots and pans. She is particular about her ingredients, importing most of her seafood, herbs and fruits from Thailand. Despite the chef’s edgy look, she is a stickler for tradition in cooking. ‘I never change. My flavour is not sharp. Not spicy. Not salty. Everything is balanced. It has been proven for 25 years. It is authentic.’
After expressing her craving for organic sea coconut a few months ago, her mother sent some of these tropical fruits from Thailand. Enjoying this dessert immensely, she added it on to the menu so everyone else could taste it.
Her food philosophy is simple: a sincere and genuine desire to share the fresh food and balanced flavours she grew up eating, with no compromises. For that very reason, in my books, she deserves the one-name status reserved for a few great women before her.
Set lunch meals from $12.90++, Mon-Fri; set dinner meals for $29.90++.
This story first appeared as 'In the kitchen: Chef Aspara' (Aug 2010). Click here for Soht & Baay's operating hours and complete address.