Garima Arora

Bangkok fine diner Gaa is a reflection of chef Garima Arora’s life story. From the cuisine to the crockery, it tells the story of Garima’s upbringing in Mumbai, her time in high-powered kitchens such as Noma and Gaggan, and her present mission to reimagine the possibilities of Indian cooking. Along with Michelin-starred Gaa, Garima is now spearheading HERE in Bangkok, a casual Indian eatery and wine bar.

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Why Bangkok Inspires Me

Eating something that I’ve never tasted before brings me so much joy, and being able to taste so many new flavours for the very first time is a big part of the reason why I’m here in Bangkok. I’m constantly amazed and surprised by so many ingredients, herbs and flavour combinations, like in the food created by chef Prin [Polsuk; former head chef at Nahm]. I would follow him anywhere he goes. He currently has a small, private kitchen restaurant in Bangkok called Samrub For Thai. Bangkok Bold restaurant in Central Embassy is also great. Bo and Dylan [chefs Duangporn ‘Bo‘ Songvisava and Dylan Jones] from Bo.Lan and Err (which unfortunately closed down during the pandemic) are also chefs to keep an eye out for. They’re such great people with an amazing energy and a world of knowledge. They know how to source the best ingredients and don’t cut any corners.

Favourite New Hangouts

Since the restaurant [Gaa] moved to a new location, my food hunts have been completely different! Swirl is a neighbourhood cellar and wine bar not very far from my place and our restaurants. They have really fun bar bites to enjoy along with a nice selection of wines. My new favourite curry shop is Charmgang in the neighbourhood of Talad Noi. When I feel like tempura, I head to Ginza Tenharu at Gaysorn Plaza for a treat. And my go-to coffee is at Ceresia. Bret and his wife Lucia are my favourite coffee roasters in the city. We love their coffee so much that we also serve it at our restaurants.

My Favourite Thai Noodles

I love khanom jiin (fermented rice noodles). One of my favourite places to eat them is at Eathai, a food court at Central Embassy. One of the stalls there specialises in khanom jiin and it’s really, really good. I love the khanom jiin with yellow crab curry, bitter gourd and pineapple. I’m getting hungry thinking about it.

The Restaurant I Always Take Visitors To

Khua Kling Pak Sod is a Southern Thai restaurant. They have a few locations now but I like to visit the one in Thonglor. It’s my favourite and for sure the one place I take everybody. It’s a must-go if you’re visiting Bangkok. It’s so good. My favourite dish is the stinky beans and prawns – it’s spectacular. The khanom jiin is really nice too. The crab curry is also very, very good. Then of course there’s the namesake khua kling which is super interesting. It’s a dish of young pork ribs fried in a spicy curry paste that’s really heavy on turmeric. People should definitely try it. The tom yum is one of the best tom yums I’ve ever had: it’s so well balanced. Editor’s tip: To find the restaurant, look for a yellow lightbox signage with Thai writing. From the outside the entrance looks like a car garage of a house.

Indian Food The Way We Make It At Home

In Bangkok, I don’t think many people cook at home so that’s why there are so many restaurants and street food stalls. But in India, cooking at home is a big, big part of how we eat. You don’t go out for Indian food: you eat at home. And when we cook at home, we don’t cook the type of dishes you find at restaurants. Chicken tikka masala doesn’t exist in Indian home-cooking. We eat very lightly cooked vegetables with breads, lentils and yoghurt. Here in Bangkok, there’s a restaurant that comes pretty close to this called Himalayan Restaurant. It does really homestyle meals: things like dahl that’s nice and low in spice. I also love South Indian food – things likes dosas. When I want South Indian food, I’ll go to Saravana Bhavan in Silom or Sriganesha on Sukhumvit Soi 13. Our casual eatery and wine bar HERE – which opened in 2020 – does a playful take on traditional Indian cuisine.

A Vote For The Old-World

I’m really passionate about wines but I’m not a big fan of natural and orange wines. It can get too funky sometimes and I don’t enjoy that. I like Old-World wines that have layers: things you can build up with throughout the meal. You start your evening with a light-bodied white, maybe go to a heavier white, then move to a pinot noir and finish with Barolo. That’s how I like to do it on a night out. For this, I like to go to Enoteca. You go there for the wines: it has a spectacular Old-World, Italian wine list. It’s a favourite date night spot for my husband and I, and somewhere that we go to over and over again. It’s great for a relaxed night out. You’re on Sukhumvit Soi 31, but you’re away from everything and that’s what I like about it. The space is beautiful, the food is great and I know the guys there. They’re so passionate about how they cook. The flavours are super traditional, but the chef is always trying new things. It’s Roman-style Italian food, but he gives it a twist here and there and most of the time, it’s a success.

Late-Night Cocktails & Izakaya Chef-Hangs

For cocktails I really like going to Tep Bar – it’s super fun. I really like Rabbit Hole as well. Casual, late-night izakayas is where you’ll also find me. Shakariki is open till 6am or something and it’s the one spot you’ll always find other chefs. It’s pub grub, of course, but Japanese-style.

The Guru Of Fermentation

It’s not in Bangkok, but Blackitch in Chiang Mai (North Thailand) is amazing. “Black” (chef Phanuphon Bulsuwan) is the guru of everything fermented, honest to God. He’s just so clever. Everyone should get to know him and what he’s doing a little bit more. He’s also a really good guy.

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