At the core of each country’s signature dish is a medley of must have ingredients that have come to shape a nation’s cuisine. In the case of Thailand, evocative aromas of basil, spices and chilli will undeniably come to mind. Picture your favourite Thai dish, and what you recall might be the faint image of the iconic Phad Thai or Som Tum (spicy green papaya salad). A glass of ice cold beer might not be conventionally associated with Thai cuisine but it is undoubtedly a much needed respite from the spice and heat that Thai flavours incite.
Returning for a 3rd time, Thai brewed Chang beer presents a travelling campaign around Thai food. Conceived with a multi-sensorial approach, the campaign showcases authentic Thai experiences in modern, unexpected ways. For 2017, the idea of memories became a guiding concept for the sensory campaign and we got to experience a sensory treat of our own at Bangkok based restaurant, Bo.lan.
Whilst it is easy to conflate their position in global Thai gastronomy with the increasing popularity of Bangkok as a holiday destination, there is something particularly ‘Thai’ about the restaurant’s founders and their approach. Their story is one of sustainable farming, rejection of marco supply chains and the uncompromising commitment to retaining authenticity in their cuisine. The restaurant eschews the Michelin standard of white table clothes and starched service for a more informal setting. The interiors are clad with beautiful untreated wood and the warm service you can expect from the sunny capital.
Created by Thai-born chef Duangporn Songvisava (Bo) and Australian-born Dylan Jones (Lan), Bo.lan was born when the two first met in London’s Nahm, helmed by award winning Australian chef David Thompson. “David actually inspired me a lot with his philosophy and patience with Thai food. I see Thailand as my playground because all the ingredients I want to work with are back here. So, it was really easy for me to leave London but it wasn’t easy for him. I asked him to join me but he always said I manipulated him to move here.” Chef Bo comments.
Fast forward to the present, the restaurant features authentic Thai style cooking with a modern touch. According to Chef Dylan, “the only thing that we modify for the international audience is the plate ware and the presentation. We are really conservative. It is a different story if you compare other people and their Thai foods with ours. We make sure that the roots of a particular dish are still there, the profile is still there. We want to make it lighter or heavier sometimes, or we add an ingredient that you wouldn’t find in a traditional recipe. Sometimes we do add things, but only to elevate a dish itself.”
While some may question the authenticity of the cuisine that Bo.lan offers, the restaurant is emphatically not fusion in nature as Chef Dylan eagerly clarifies. “with Bo.lan we try to bring more attention to Thai food heritage and present it in a more contemporary manner. We believe that we should do everything from scratch and make everything fresh every day.” It is this very commitment to quality and freshness that lends their style of Thai cuisine its personality. In the words of Chef Bo “If you do Thai food correctly, everything is just vibrant and fresh. You take ingredients, that by themselves aren’t exactly delicious but mix them together and it just creates something of a new level. Compared to western food, you have a dish that is salty. With Thai food, it’s salty, sweet, sour, spicy, bitter and astringent all at the same time while still maintaining its harmonious balance.”
Beyond what’s on the plate, the couple is intent on creating a more progressive approach to culinary by prompting awareness of sustainable farming and the origins of food sources. “We believe that food is one of the things that bring people together so it is important to be mindful and considerate of where our food comes from, whether it’s sustainable or organic, good practice and if it is ethical.” While the duo recognises that locally sourced, organically grown food might be far reaching for the majority of Thailand’s population, they are taking their first steps to change the way people see food. “From the first year, where we try to talk about sustainable sources from where we get our food. None of them understand what we had to say, but these days they are getting it more and they start asking questions as to where the food comes from when they go out to buy them. Is it chemical free? The society has a better understanding of what they consume and they make better choices when it comes to food.”
To experience all that Chef Bo & Dylan has curated for Chang’s Sensory Trails, visit The Promontory at Marina Bay on 7th and 8th July 2017 from 4-1030pm and expect unique renditions of Thai classics, live band performances and interactive art exhibitions.
Text & Photography by Clifford Loh