Located on the beachfront of the luxurious Rosewood resort, Ta Khai is built from weathered wood and repurposed materials. The rustic, yet chic, Thai seafood restaurant is popular for its authentic southern Thai cuisine. The fresh, spicy flavours and unique dishes are a labour of love derived from a more than 30-year culinary union between the married chef couple at the helm of Rosewood’s signature restaurant.
Rotkaew and Sangchan Suttitummanon, better known as Uncle Nun and Auntie Yai, first met in the southern province of Trang many years ago. Theirs is a sweet story. Uncle Nun was working at a restaurant and Auntie Yai was a huge fan of a particular seafood fried rice dish he made. Yai loved the dish so much that she asked him for the recipe, Nun offered to teach her his culinary secrets and truth be told, they fell in love over their mutual love for food. Now, 30 plus years later, their love for authentic southern Thai cuisine and local seafood delights are showcased across the menu at the rustic Ta Khai restaurant.
Uncle Nun and Auntie Yai operated a local food stall in Trang for 20 years, and spent some time in the kitchen at a popular seafood restaurant in Phuket, before coming to take charge of the kitchen at Ta Khai. When asked to compare the difference between their tiny food stall and working for a restaurant in a luxurious resort, the couple reflect, “Guests expectations are high. All preparation and processes are carried out delicately, and excessive thought is put into the ingredients that we should use, hygiene and most of all the taste and presentation.”
Uncle Nun and Auntie Yai take great pride in their work and are determined to stick to their vision and passion for serving authentic southern Thai cuisine. There are no frozen products used at Ta Khai. Everything is fresh. Produce is ordered daily or harvested from the on-site garden, while seafood and fish are caught from the restaurant’s pond.
Auntie Yai is happy when guests like her dishes and she is proud of the local cuisine. She also enjoys creating recommended dishes outside the menu, as per a special or best ingredient that is either seasonal or from the garden.
Speaking of recommended dishes, Uncle Nun and Auntie Yai have an entire favourites section on the diverse Ta Khai menu. Some of the couple’s favourites include Gaeng Poo, a crab curry featuring yellow curry paste, betel leaves (often used in southern Thai cuisine), and rice vermicelli; then there is Moo Hong, a scrumptious soy-braised pork with black pepper and garlic. Interestingly enough, it takes Auntie Yai more than four hours to prepare the perfect Moo Hong as it takes an extended length of time for the meat to cook so thoroughly that it really melts in your mouth.
Auntie Yai is so dedicated to her craft that she does not leave the dish to be cooked on the stove, but rather she remains on stand-by to often stir the Moo Hong in order for the bottom part not to be burnt, as well as to skim off the excess fats from the pork belly that have accumulated on the surface. This helps to degrease the dish and ensure guests get the full flavour of the sauce.
Uncle Nun and Auntie Yai truly are special. They are a lovely chef couple who both go out of their way to ensure guest’s satisfaction. Uncle Nun is always in a chipper mood and can often be heard belting out a tune in the kitchen while he’s cooking.
Auntie Yai thoroughly enjoys her time in the kitchen. She takes a lot of time on the food preparation side, and is very detailed on what is being served to the guests. It has been noted that she truly cares a great deal about every single ingredient she uses to create authentic southern Thai cuisine, while Uncle Nun’s character is similar to that of his wife. “The most satisfying part of my day,” he states, “is when the guests enjoy and praise the food that I cook.”
For those looking to delve a bit deeper into this very specific cuisine, Auntie Yai recommends the cooking class offered at Ta Khai to better understand the match of Thai culture and cuisine. “We are happy with the menu we offer,” she says, “we just need to meet with our customers and explain some ingredients to them so they have a better experience dining with us.”
To catch the inspiring married chef couple in action, head over to Ta Khai. The high class yet rustic beachfront restaurant faces the stunning Emerald Bay and offers an extensive menu of authentic southern Thai cuisine as well as local seafood favourites. Dinner service begins at 6pm daily and the restaurant closes at midnight.