Bangkok born and bred, Somkiat “Joke”Pairojmahakij jumped from running a busy bar in the madness of Khao San Road to the far more refined world of organic foods, sustainability, and locally sourced ingredients. Inspired by his Canadian wife’s work in forestry and climate change, along with her understanding of the local NGO community, Joke began delivering healthful lunches to the international office crowd. Adding a few tables and chairs to his kitchen, Seven Spoons was born in 2011.
Although it moved to bigger premises in 2013, the latest incarnation of Seven Spoons retains the same independent attitude and loyal support that has long made it stand out as a culinary leader among the try-hard fashion food followers. The restaurant is infused with Joke’s energy. Primarily self-taught, the chef has a palpable enthusiasm for his culinary creations. His spirit lends a certain kind of honesty to his dishes, which are packed with flavour and underlined by health-consciousness.
“I love spices, and real food, like stews, but what I enjoy most is creating new dishes,” he says. “Innovation.”
In the heat of his first floor kitchen, Joke creates a dish he’s adding to the new evening menu, one inspired by Nepalese cuisine: paneer cheese with ginger and lentils.
First, he takes four thick slices of Indian paneer and lightly pan fries them in a drizzle of oil, patting each browned wedge of cheese that comes off the pan. On the stove, as he describes his hearty stew, it’s clear that Joke’s passion is rooted in the ingredients, locally sourced wherever possible, rather than complexity, hubris, or showmanship.
“The ginger in this dish is local,” he explains. “I get it just a few doors down from here, from a woman who grows it in the area.” Onion, ginger, thyme, garlic, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and lentils are added to vegetable stock and left to simmer for three hours, or more.
Joke then whips up a salad, new to the lunch menu. He combines smoked salmon, asparagus, radish, sundried tomatoes, gruyere, bits of almond brittle for crunch, and longan from Ratchaburi. Alongside the mixture he serves up his own version of head cheese—or brawn—a pork terrine from Europe with pickles and organic pink peppercorns from Kampot in Cambodia.
The seasonal lunch and dinner menus at Seven Spoons revolve around a philosophy of invention. Joke crafts new dishes with local ingredients, or simply cooks lesser known meals differently, driven to create good, wholesome food rather than fancy fare. The menu never neglects the comfort food factor.
For a chef who has spent his life in Bangkok, Joke’s greatest skill is his openness to adventure. With a smile on his face and a hard-working attitude, he explores global flavours, inviting eager diners to join him for the ride.
211/8 Chakkrapatipong Rd | 0 2629 9214 | sevenspoonsbkk.com | Tues-Sun 11am-3pm, 6pm-1am