Last December, we had the humbling privilege of hosting our dear friend Prew Pirom, from Bangkok’s Pla Dib Restaurant, for a one-night kitchen takeover at Kilo Kallang. It was Prew’s first time officially cooking in the Kilo Kitchen, and although he says it took a little bit of time to get used to the new environment, he was all smiles while dishing out his signature Thai- and Japanese-influenced fare for hungry diners during our Cooking Beats: Pla Dib Invasion night on 3rd December. With dishes such as Labb Dib (Thai beef tartare with vodka and pandanback); Kao Soi Kar Geah (Northern Thai curry noodle with braised lamb shank), Tom Kah Seafood (coconut galangal seafood soup), and Gai Yang Kamin (Thai-style roasted turmeric Cornish hen), each course was as surprising as the next. Pla Dib’s regular DJs Butung, Nassa, and Gungun also joined the party, taking over the decks in the restaurant and at the lounge after dinner for a full-blown cultural exchange. Friends and family joined us for the evening as we took time to slow down and reflect on the year gone by over good food and even better conversations. In between, we had a quick chat and caught up with Prew during dinner service.
Kilo (K): You have a little farm back in Bangkok, so you grow your own stuff? But here in Singapore you have to go the market and get all your vegetables, so that’s different.
Prew (P): We have vegetables and limes; we don’t get a lot, but at least we get some. We also have chickens and hens so we have fresh eggs every day. Yes, it’s different here, but that’s part of cooking, part of the fun! You have to go shopping, right?
K: For tonight’s menu — how did you decide what to bring over to Singapore from Pla Dib?
P: We wanted to do something a little bit different, so it’s a bit more Thai. We used a lot of Thai ingredients and recipes, some of which are very old and cannot be found at regular restaurants.
K: Did you start cooking from a young age? How or why did you start?
P: Yes — I was 7 or 8 years old. Everyone in my family loves to eat, and my grandmother loves to cook. And I love to eat, so I have to cook.
K: What’s your favourite kind of cuisine to cook then?
P: All kinds!
K: Favourite dish on the menu tonight?
P: The tartare! And this compressed watermelon with dried fish. It’s a very old, ancient Thai recipe.
K: In Pla Dib, do you always mix the old and the new? How do you want people to feel when they eat your food?
P: Yeah! We don’t want to leave things as they are, we want to mix everything. Hopefully, when people eat my food, they enjoy it and are happy, because I’m proud of what I cook.
K: How did you and Javier, our founder, meet?
P: We met at Pla Dib, 11 years ago! And we became friends after that.
K: So Javier tried your food, and both of you started talking? This was a long time before Kilo even started. So did he get his inspiration from you?
P: Maybe? (laughs)
K: Have you tried the bowl at Grain Traders that’s named after you?
P: Not yet! I’ll go tomorrow!
(At this point, Manel, our executive chef, strolls over and asks Prew to join him for supper.)
Manel (M): We’ll go for late-night dim sum later, yeah? After the service?
M: Yeah! There’s this place that opens until 6AM. The guys need to try dim sum.
P: At night?
M: Yeah it’s the best time! Especially after you’ve had a few shots.
K: Manel, previously you went over to Pla Dib to cook, correct? How’s it like having Prew here now?
M: We learn a lot from him. I’m happy with the menu tonight; there’re very strong Thai flavours. It’s always good to learn.
K: You don’t usually cook so much Thai food right?
M: We have a little bit of that on the menu, but honestly, all that we have, we learnt from Prew. Usually, if I want to put something Thai on the menu, I get the recipe and send it to Prew and ask, “Prew, how is that?” And he says no, this one isn’t good, and he’ll pass me the ingredients. Usually the first time he never gives me the amounts, because everything is in his head, so I ask him to be specific.
(Later on, Manel continued to ask Prew questions during service, like why he chose to use a certain type of eggplant.)
K: So Prew, how do you usually create a new recipe?
P: I just try it! I think it’s kind of like architecture, it’s about composing.
K: So you feel like food is like of like architecture and art?
P: Yes. I actually studied architecture!
K: Why did you decide to stop doing architecture?
P: I didn’t really stop, it’s just that there were only two things that I could really do — designing or cooking! But I’m not a businessman, and I’m not an engineer. Cooking is more fun.
We also asked Javier about how he felt having Prew cooking in Kilo.
Javier (J): It feels like we’ve come full circle, you know, ten years after our friendship. I was driving today and it kind of hit me that Prew’s here, and even though we see each other quite often, the fact that he’s cooking here just brings everything full circle and it’s a great feeling.
K: Prew told us that you met way before Kilo started. Did he inspire you to start?
J: He is the inspiration. He was the catalyst for Raw Kitchen Bar. If it wasn’t for Pla Dib, there would have never been a Raw Kitchen Bar, and if there wasn’t a Raw Kitchen Bar, there wouldn’t have been Kilo. That’s it.
A big thank you to all who joined us for Cooking Beats — Pla Dib Invasion. We hope you enjoyed yourselves, and we hope to be able to host many more dinners with heart, love, and soul in 2016.
View more images from the evening here.