“The joy of cooking has been part of me since I was very young,” says Sujet Saenkham. Born in a small rural village in Central Thailand, Saenkham grew up working alongside his mother and grandparents, and from the age of eight he was gathering and preparing food for the family.
When he opened his first restaurant Spice I Am in Surry Hills in 2004, he was committed to offering authentic Thai food, and decided not to modify his recipes to pander to local tastes. Now Saenkham hopes to inspire his customers to recreate their favourite dishes at home. He is sharing his treasured family recipes in his cookbook, Spice I Am.
“I wanted to create a cookbook that is easy to use and filled with authentic home cooking,” says Saenkham. “The recipes in the book are close to me and my mother, from when we cook together.” Spice I Am includes Saenkham’s signature stir-fried crisp pork belly and crispy prawn and lemongrass salad. And his favourite: a slow-cooked beef green curry.
“Australians are already well educated in Thai food,” says Saenkham. “I knew that I could build on that level of understanding.” Saenkham has since opened two additional eateries, House (a north-eastern Thai street-food restaurant) and, most recently, Surry Hills Eating House (which specialises in the regional cuisine of southern Thailand). Alongside the easy-to-follow recipes are suggestions on where to source essential ingredients for the Thai kitchen from and practical tips.
His advice for cooking from the book: “Don’t panic!”
Spice I Am is available in all good bookstores.