Executive chef Chimkit ‘Lisa’ Khamphuang of Patara Fine Thai Cuisine takes Priyanka Elhence through some of her favourite chilli-laden dishes.
Chimkit ‘Lisa’ Khamphuang of Patara Fine Thai Cuisine
Nestled in Tanglin Mall is popular Thai restaurant, Patara Fine Thai Cuisine. What’s lesser known is that the restaurant has been led by executive chef Chimkit ‘Lisa’ Khamphuang for the last 19 years. Khamphuang, who hails from Yasothorn Province in northern Thailand, is famous for her inventive spins on regional Thai dishes.
Khamphuang’s culinary career took off when she left her hometown at 14 to work as a cook at Patara Bangkok, considered to be a very prestigious position at that time. After 10 years in Bangkok, she was transferred to the Singapore outlet to introduce Thai cuisine to the city.
Incidentally, Khampuang’s sister was also a cook at Patara Bangkok and has since started a restaurant in Phuket. “We had our own farm at home, and it was a family tradition to slaughter a live duck for special occasions. My parents managed the farm, so that’s when my interest in food developed. I miss my family’s larb pad duck salad, and it’s a dish I must have each time I return home,” she says.
Under her mother’s watchful eye, eight-yearold Khampuang started preparing the family dinners by learning how to prepare sticky rice, while her mother would prepare the other dishes. A simple but traditional home-cooked meal consisted of omelette, sticky rice and grilled fish, accompanied with the signature chilli dip, nam prik pla ra. The fiery chilli sauce of the northeast uses a special type of pla ra (fermented fish sauce), which is pounded together with fermented shrimp, chillies, lime juice and sugar. “People from my hometown like everything spicy and hence chilli dip was a basic requirement with every meal. That’s also why the lod chong tad thai ‘Thai Chendol’ is one of my favourite childhood dishes, as it would help put out the fire from eating fiery fare like gang gai si fag, a spicy chicken soup with wintermelon. Thailand’s cantaloupes are often softer and sweeter than those sold in Singapore, so the Thai chendol tastes very different to regular chendol here,” shares Khampuang.