Street Food Traveller and Chef Will Meyrick will be combining his collective passions of cooking and photography and launching a personal photographic gallery at his elegant Thai inspired restaurant, Som Chai. Here a collection of his favourite defining images, including stunning portraits of characters he has captured through his lens, breathtaking rural, costal and urban landscapes and his captivating street photography will be curated to sit amongst diners.
Pairing this constantly evolving exhibition with his passion for seeking traditional authenticity in cultures and sharing the hundreds of recipes found over his fifteen years of travel journeys throughout Thailand will create a visually and thematically exciting new concept in the discovery and exploration of new tastes and stimulating dining environments.
“Pad chaa” of baby lobster and chicken with wild ginger chili holy basil green peppercorn and lime leaf HD
Will’s inspiration for this, the history, culture and flavours of Thailand, has led him to exploring the vast and contrasting regions of the country to seek dishes from ancient times. Recipes from the old kingdom, those garnered by staying with hill tribes and researching their methods of foraging and fermenting foods and those gained from being invited to homes to taste and cook recipes that were handed down are presented alongside recipes from the Royal Court. Forever seeking perfection and intent on supporting local venders Will incorporates his personal culinary twist and divine interpretations in order to replicate ingredients unavailable here in Bali, using local ingredients to bring out a specific flavour. Other recipes are derived from simple street foods imbuing their regional influences; Arabic, Malay, Cambodian, Vietnamese or Chinese.
The culmination of all these recipes has led Will to create a truly exquisite regional Thai culinary menu for Som Chai that will engage all your senses.
Will’s aim is now to take you on a cultural journey through Thailand from the rare beauty and simplicity of the Northern Hill tribes and rural provinces to the centre of Bangkok’s Royal Court and then further on to the lush Southern Coastal areas and unique cuisine culture of the islands.
This is where Will spent two years learning, absorbing and understanding the complexities and simplicities of Thai foods. “On this journey” Will explains, “ I will introduce you to recipes using authentic methods of preparation from natural ageing and fermentation to hand made artisanal fish sauces. At Som Chai we dry our fish and prawns to create the essential Som Chai umami that infuses authenticity into our cooking. All our curries are cooked over a wood fire and in claypots, taking their traditional elements and elevating them in my own representation of their original intentions. I am not preparing what I think Thai food should be, rather I am re-creating the experience of Thai food with my own interpretation in order to preserve the character through the use of locally sourced produce.“
Salad of crispy sardine pork belly prawn kar lime mandarin skin tossed in palm sugar and tamarind caramel
This is where Will Meyrick performs at his best, his gift throughout his career has been the art of absorbing and understanding these traditions, cultures, flavours and then to be able to create an opportunity to share them in a fine dining restaurant such as Som Chai.
Cooking or creating a restaurant for Will is about understanding and appreciating where history and tradition meet together and being able to move forward in the culture of life. “One has to understand the history and the depth of where something has come from, the why as well as the what, the how as well as the where”.
At Som Chai, Will expresses his devotion to Thai cuisine by blending the old and new in a conceptual thread that weaves past, present dishes in fresh new recipes. Will explores this notion of the value of history in culinary adventures: “You only learn from your past mistakes, you never learn from your future mistakes because you haven’t made them yet. Hence why, when talking about food and culture, you have to question how can you grow a food cuisine and a food culture when you don’t look at the past. What can you learn if you are only looking at the future?”
It’s significant that each dish has a special place in the culture to which it belongs, and as such is special to those who prepare it. Food and its consumption is a virtual portal into a culture and Will believes it should be treated as such.
“For example Som Chai’s Royal Thai Watermelon salad with house made salmon floss, dried galangal, coconut sediment and salmon roe, is one of the dishes crafted from an ancient royal recipe that once greatly impressed the Thai Royal family.”
Contrary to popular belief Thai food doesn’t necessarily have to be spicy. Traditionally Thai food was relatively mild in heat. Chilli peppers were introduced by the Portuguese and Spanish and it has only been over the last two to three hundred years that Thai food has had heat to it. Prior to this Thai food was very much fermented and coconut based, for example there’s a simple dish called Lohm which gives the true sense of Thai food. As cultures evolved through the 19th Century due to trade routes and travel, Thailand was thriving. This was during the Spice trade and the country welcomed traders from outside, like Arabic merchants, honouring them with adaptations of both cuisines, maybe the first to interpret Asian fusion, to show welcome and a desire to please and comfort their guests. Particularly if noble traders were invited to meet with the Kingm the court kitchens would look at the many ways to share Thai cuisine and pair it with Thai influenced interpretations of the home cooking of their guests, Thais are known for their hospitality and this was a way to ensure favourable relations with all.
Thai Royal cuisine is especially known for its refinement; cooking techniques; presentation and use of ingredients which were a great influence on the cuisine of the central Thai plains. When a room full of diplomats or delegates were dining with the King in his royal attire, it would not be acceptable to cause discomfort to the guests, or to have the King perspiring from all spices in the curry.
The King must always be remarked on for his elegance so Royal Thai food, as well as a lack of heat is presented in small bites. Delicate morsels that are easy to eat politely, the kind of food you can converse with, that does not make the guest, or the Royal company messy, does not require too much attention to eat. This in turn was replicated by the people of Thailand who revered and respected their monarchy. This reputation of Thais as incredibly sophisticated and elegant is represented quite clearly in the lengths they will go to preserve this image right down to the delicate presentations of quite simple foods.
Royal Thai watermelon salad with homemade salmon floss dried galangal brown coconut and salmon roe
Authentic Thai food is based on a balance between different flavours including spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. This goes beyond simply combining the flavours within an individual dish and instead incorporates the contrasts in flavours between two or three different small dishes, such as Miang Kham, a traditional snack from Thailand and Laos, this was introduced to the Siamese court of King Rama V by Princess Dara Rasmi. The name “miang kham” translates to “one bite wrap”, from miang, food wrapped in leaves and kham meaning a bite. This is one reason Thais share meals and share with family or on special occasions, a banquet style.
At Som Chai, Will has introduced this concept to the menu, so whether you order three plates or ten, selecting different contrasting dishes and sharing them with friends will allow you to experience the Thai way to eat. In order to create successful experiences for his guests Will explains “I love to spend time with my front of house team, I get them to taste each dish, helping them to understand the flavours and be able to assist our guests in ordering a well balanced meal. Thinking about and being aware of the contrasting levels of spice, sourness, saltiness, sweetness, richness, wet, dry, soft, crispy, pickled, aged… the combinations are endless.”
Much like the Thais, Will’s desire is for his guests to experience the delight of Thai cuisine in a way that creates comfort and enjoyment, that brings new flavours to the palate along with notes of familiarity and honours the authenticity of Thai culture and history. Enhanced by the photographic gallery, you can soon discover the wonders of Thailand through the doors of Som Chai and without the hassles of getting on a plane.
As a chef and lover of beautiful cuisine, Will Meyrick has always been intoxicated by the spices, flavours and textures of South East Asian food. Will enjoys travelling throughout the region, finding and meeting real people in the ‘warungs’, who produce food that really expresses the heart of their cultures. These experiences have been the influence of his 5 highly successful restaurants in Bali: Sarong, Mama San, Hujan LocaleTiger Palm and Som Chai. He recently opened Canggu Cooking Retreat, where he has brought the rural elegance of an urban farm to Bali for an authentic and enriching culinary experience.