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. She’s the first Indian female chef to be awarded a Michelin star and she was named Asia’s Best Female Chef by World’s 50 Best in 2019. A chef and restaurant to watch. And then some.
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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 I’m here in Bangkok.  I’m constantly amazed and surprised by so many ingredients and herbs and flavour combinations. Like the food created by chef Prin [Polsuk; former head chef at Nahm]. I would follow him anywhere and anywhere he goes is my favourite restaurant in Bangkok [chef Prin currently has a small private kitchen restaurant in Bangkok called Samrub For Thai]. Bangkok Bold restaurant in Central Embassy is also great. And of course, there’s Bo.Lan. Bo and Dylan [chef-owners Duangporn ‘Bo‘ Songvisava and Dylan Jones] are amazing and such great people. Bo is just a world of knowledge. Their energy is amazing. I go to their restaurant just hoping to catch one of them for a drink and a chat. I’ve actually cooked at Bo.Lan a couple of times – once for a food initiative they organised called the Re Food Forum and once for a WWF Save The Elephants charity dinner. The best part about cooking at Bo.Lan is being in their kitchen. The way they do things: it’s so traditional, so perfect. They don’t cut corners. The ingredients they use are sensational. I tasted the palm sugar they use in the kitchen and it’s the best sugar I’ve ever tasted in my life. And I love their other restaurant, Err. It’s such a cool spot to just hang out and eat. There’s this chicken skin dish on the menu and – oh my God – it’s so, so good. I don’t really like chicken skin, but that’s one I can polish off by myself. I just love it so much.

My Favourite Thai Noodles

I love khanom jiin (fermented rice noodles), and one of my favourite places to eat them is at Eathai, a food court at Central Embassy. One of the stalls 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. For me, if you’re visiting Bangkok, it’s a must-go to. It’s so good. My favourite dish is the stinky beans and the prawns. It’s spectacular. The khanom jiin is really nice. 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. It’s a dish that people should definitely try. The tom yum is one of the best tom yums I’ve ever had: it’s just 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 and lentils and yoghurt. Here in Bangkok, there a restaurant that comes pretty close to this. It’s called Himalayan Restaurant and 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.

Bangkok’s Best Ramen

My husband loves ramen, so when he comes to visit from Mumbai, we always have to do one ramen spot. Usually we go to Ramen Bankara – that’s his favourite – or we do Ippudo which is always a safe bet. But he really loves Bankara. It’s so good, but it’s also so rich. You cannot deal with life after eating that. You have to call it a day. I enjoy Mensho Ramen as well. It’s really good. The noodles are really special there.

A Vote For The Old-World

I’m really passionate about wines but I’m not a big fan of the 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 throughout the meal. You start your evening with a light-bodied white, maybe go to a heavier white, then maybe 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. It has a really good 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 a beautiful space, the food is great and I know the guys there. They’re just 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 tries to give it a twist here and there and most of the time, he succeeds. It’s just great for a relaxed night out. You go there for the wines. The wines are spectacular. It’s a good spot to just go and drink. You’re on Sukhumvit Soi 31, but you’re away from everything. And that’s what I like about it.

What Vegan Food Should Be Like

I’m not a vegetarian or vegan, but I love eating vegetables. I really enjoy the food at vegan restaurant Broccoli Revolution. It’s tasty and perfect for when you want to eat well. It’s just wholesome, clean, vegan cooking. There’s a tom yum and broccoli burger. Actually, their burger is one of my favourites: it’s just so good. It also does great sweet potato fries and fresh-pressed juices.

Where You’ll Find The Locals Socialising

Quince restaurant at Siri House is somewhere I go often and really enjoy. It’s very relaxed and my go-to when I want to wind down. It’s such a beautiful spot and you can sit outside when the weather is good. It does a delicious sobrasada: a spicy sausage mince that’s kind of like a tartare. The octopus is great and the vegetable dishes are really good too: things like roast cauliflower and carrots with smoked labne. Jacqueline, the bar at Siri House, is also really nice. So is Luka Café next door that does a great breakfast; things like avocado toast with poached eggs. Sometimes the baristas use coffee from Ceresia, which is my favourite coffee place in the city. It’s another amazing spot.

Late-Night Cocktails & Izakaya Chef-Hangs

For cocktails I really like going to Tep Bar – it’s super fun – and I really like Rabbit Hole. Casual, late-night izakayas are somewhere 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 smart and clever. Everyone should get to know him and what he’s doing a little bit more. He’s also a really good guy.

Guide last updated March 2020

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