Chefs at Home: Nuit Regular - Kiin, Pai, Sabai Sabai, Sukhothai, Toronto
1. Are you working more or less compared to this time last year?
I feel like I’m just as busy! This time last year I was working a lot in the kitchen. This year, I’ve kept busy with many other projects during the pandemic—planning my new pop-up concept By Chef Nuit, preparing for the opening of my new restaurant [at Yonge and Eglinton] and gearing up for the release of my new cookbook.
2. How has your restaurant cooking changed since covid?
With my restaurants that are serving traditional Thai food (Pai, Sabai Sabai, Sukhothai), it hasn’t changed too much—we’re just doing more takeout business now. However, with Kiin, which features royal Thai–inspired cuisine, the food isn’t as takeout-friendly, so I had to come up with the By Chef Nuit pop-up concept in that space serving Thai-inspired comfort food instead. It’s something different and something fun.
3. How much cooking at home are you doing now compared to before?
I’m doing a lot more cooking at home and I love the opportunity to cook more at home. I wasn’t able to before because I was working so much in the restaurants’ kitchens that I was too tired when I got home. But it’s been a pleasure to cook in my own kitchen these past few months, both for my family and testing new recipes.
4. If you are cooking at home more, what are your go-to recipes?
I don’t have a go-to recipe because I rotate through dishes based on my current mood, what I’m craving, what’s available seasonally, etc. I do make papaya salad very often, though, because I always have these ingredients in the fridge and it is my comfort food.
5. Have you been dipping into any cookbooks lately that you recommend?
The time at home has given me a chance to look through my cookbook collection. I love flipping through them for inspiration. I also love reading them to gain knowledge and understanding of other cuisines. Lately, I’ve also been reading a lot of books on the science of cooking, such as Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat.
6. Are you shopping for food in stores or using restaurant suppliers?
I mostly shop in stores to help local businesses. I go to my neighbourhood butcher in East York to get most of my meat products. I pick up a lot of my fresh produce in East Chinatown. We don’t eat a lot of my bread in my house, but when we do, my daughter and I have been learning to bake breads at home like so many others when the pandemic began.
7. Has covid left you hooked on any new pantry items or neglected techniques?
I’ve rediscovered my obsession with my mortar and pestle. It’s a very large, very heavy stone mortar and pestle I brought back from Thailand. Every time I use it, it connects me with my family and my homeland. And because I’ve been using it more often, I’ve been building up my arm muscles, so I can now make my pastes much faster!
8. If you aren’t cooking, what are you eating?
When I’m not cooking myself, I’m often eating my mother-in-law’s food. I live with my parents-in-law, so I’m lucky enough have easy access to her delicious home-cooked Filipino food. It’s also a great way for me to share with my daughter her Filipino heritage through my mother-in-law’s food [photo below: shrimp sautéed with okra and string bean] and not just her Thai heritage with my cooking.
—RENÉE S. SUEN
📷 (Portrait) Graydon & Herriott (Food) Nuit Regular