The Last Spoonful

Written by  Gastronomer Lifestyle 

March 3, 2023 

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Something of a maverick in the local culinary scene, Chalee Kader’s latest project takes a commonplace meal in Thai culture and lifts it to new heights. Gastronomer Lifestyle chats with the chef to find out what he finds so fascinating about khao gaeng and how it has become the heart and soul of his new (not) fine dining restaurant, Wana Yook.


To our readers who have never been to Wana Yook, can you tell us a little bit about your restaurant and its concept?

Wana Yook is a juxtaposition of classic Thai flavours and modern-day elements, wherein we pay homage to Thailand’s time-honoured khao gaeng culture. Loosely translated as “tone of time”, Wana Yook is about the movement of khao gaeng through history, from an affluent meal for the higher society to a steadfast way of eating for all classes. Khao gaeng is an integral part of Thai cuisine, mixing everything from curries to stir-fries, piling them over rice, and creating a fusion of heady flavours that is a uniquely personal experience every time. 

How do you define “khao gaeng”?

To me, khao gaeng is a condensed Thai meal that probably originated from meals served as a samrub, or set arrangement. These sets consisted of a variety of balanced dishes served with rice. As time passed and people had less time to enjoy such a lavish array of dishes, the dishes would just be piled onto rice and quickly eaten in the morning and in between the day. 

What was the inspiration behind “elevated khao gaeng”?

Khao gaeng has always been a favourite meal close to our hearts. I was always fascinated by how various dishes can complement each other on the same plate. The best part of eating khao gaeng, for me, is the last bite where you leave a little bit of everything and spoon it together with your rice to create this very personal bite to end the meal. I wanted to reimagine that feeling of that last spoonful at Wana Yook. 

How exactly do you go about elevating khao gaeng

We never really thought to elevate khao gaeng but more to have fun with a way of eating that might seem mundane to some, delivering it in a way that’s memorable. Along with embracing our Thai heritage, we work diligently with local artisans and organic suppliers while highlighting vast varieties of rice hailing from across the land. 

As a chef, what’s your take on fine dining? 

An awkward and elite way to classify restaurants.

What would you like to see more of in fine dining in Thailand?

Less of those two words.

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