Fan Club Thailand is delighted to introduce you to Thai food expert, Kay Plunkett-Hogge. Born and raised in Bangkok, Kay spoke Thai before she spoke English and has spent more than half her life in Thailand. Kay is the author of Baan: Recipes and stories from my Thai home. The book is described as a homage to Kay’s childhood, the delicious recipes that she was raised on and a cuisine and country that she loves. We sat down with Kay recently and asked her about her affinity with Thailand.
Kay, please tell us more about your early life in Thailand
My father moved to Thailand in 1961, ostensibly for two years, to sell Ford tractors. He ended up staying until the 80s! It was a magical place to grow up; Bangkok in the week and a very different, peaceful Pattaya at the weekends, with forays up to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in the cool season.
I grew up between two kitchens; inside for western and outside for Thai. My favourite was that Thai kitchen, the one of dancing flames and lounging dogs. I think I picked up a lot of tips and tastes just by pure osmosis!
What inspired you to write your Thai recipe book, ‘Baan’?
This has been a passion project of mine for years. I’d go so far as to say I started writing about food in order to produce this book. It has just taken time to get it published – life and other projects got in the way! The book is an homage to all my Thai Food heroes, wonderful people all over Thailand who have shared recipes, stories and food with me. It is a celebration of Thai food and Thailand. It also aims to get people in the kitchen and get them cooking Thai food and incorporate it into their everyday lives. Not so much ‘Thai Food Made Simple’ as ‘Thai Food Made Possible’!
You recently went on a tour of Thailand with other famous foodies. What were the highlights of your trip?
What a trip this was! We (Audrey Gillan, Gilly Smith and James Ramsden) spent the first few nights in Bangkok at the fabulous Shanghai Mansion right in the bustling heart of Chinatown. I wanted our guests to get a sense of what Bangkok was like when I was growing up. Then up, up, up we went to Doi Mae Salong in the Golden Triangle, where we stayed at the stunning Phu Chaisai Mountain Resort.
We ate Akha food, rode Mongolian ponies into the jungle to forage with a rather splendid man called See Mork (and drank a little too much of his medicinal whisky), revelled in the clean air and the peace of the mountains, toured Mom Da’s organic farm and tea plantation, and had the spectacular ‘oil can chicken’ smothered in hay and cooked on a blazing fire as the sun went down over Burma in the distance.
We spent a sophisticated night in Chiang Mai at Raya Heritage, a beautiful new hotel on the Ping river about 20 minutes outside Chiang Mai city centre. We ate their bespoke Crossroads menu, which charts the origin of Lanna cuisine – both delicious and insightful. And we dined at Charoen Suan Aek with the wonderful Andy Ricker then back to London.
What are your all-time favourite food spots in Thailand and in the UK?
Ooh. That’s a tough one! In the UK I love 101 Kitchen in Hammersmith, west London. Proper, honest Thai food that doesn’t pull any punches.
In Thailand? Wow. In Chiang Mai, I would say Puong Thong which is run by my pals Anchalee & Mali. And Samer Jai for Khao Soi. This is in addition to the other places in Chiang Mai already mentioned above. In Bangkok, there are too many to choose from, but my current favourites include 100 Mahaseth and Issaya Siamese Club. Plus my regular noodle shop, Wor Rasamee, on Soi Saladaeng.
What is your favourite recipe?
I would have to say good old pad krapow moo – pork stir-fried with holy basil. Preferably with a deep-fried egg (khai dao) on top. It’s my ultimate comfort food!
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Food and drinks writer
Kay Plunkett-Hogge is an acclaimed food and drinks writer. Born and brought up in 1970s Bangkok, Kay spent her childhood between two kitchens – inside for Western food, outside for Thai – before forging an international career in the film and fashion industries. Bilingual in Thai and English, Kay’s most recent book, Baan: Recipes and stories from my Thai home was published in April 2019 and immediately became a best seller. Kay has also written extensively on Thai food for Delicious Magazine, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Sainsbury’s Magazine, and a number of other publications including the Thai Airways in-flight magazine, Sawasdee.