The Peninsula Bangkok: Chef Monnipa Rungthong | Yes, Chef!
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Yes, Chef! Monnipa Rungthong, Master of Thai Classics at The Peninsula BKK

Yes Chef Monnipa Rungthong header Photo by Design/Alisa Chau

Asia is one food-crazy continent! We take great care to pick restaurants based on culinary vibes, rankings in international gourmand guides, mentions in magazines, Instagramability, and added allure. Yes, Chef! features the region’s chefs' stories of love and labour in kitchens, which has made some of our restaurants the next big thing in Asia.

While there are a myriad of restaurants and chefs who have become known for their fusion creations and experimentation with the forms and flavours of Thai cuisine, Chef Monnipa Rungthong is someone who keeps herself planted within the bounds of its time-honoured cooking traditions. Celebrating the nation’s most recognizable ingredients, strong aromatics, and distinct punchy palate, she has worked to bolster the overall standard of Thailand’s most famed dishes.

Having helmed first-rate kitchens all around the globe over the past two decades – marking a presence for Thai cuisine in Morocco, Poland, Macau, and recently at Spices restaurant in Hong Kong’s The Repulse Bay - Chef Monnipa now presides over traditional Thai restaurant Thiptara at The Peninsula hotel in her hometown of Bangkok. Stripping Thai cooking back to its glorious basics, she maintains firmly immersed in showcasing the most authentic Thai flavours to diners in her city and beyond.

In this instalment of Yes, Chef!, Chef Monnipa explores the elements of Thai cooking that have made her a master of her craft, the important dishes that shape our understanding of her culture and offers advice on how to cook Thai food the genuine way.

thai dishes pork larb shrimp pad thai mieng kham thiptara the peninsula bangkok

For our readers who don’t know, what is your background and how did you first begin pursuing a culinary career?

I began my culinary journey by assisting my mother in the kitchen, where I would fetch ingredients, pluck leaves, and pound spices, immersing myself in the world of cooking.

What was the first dish you ever cooked?

The first dish I remember preparing is a Thai-style omelette served with a delectable dipping sauce called Prik Nam Pla - a traditional Thai sauce made with fish sauce, chopped chilies, and sliced garlic.

chef monnipa rungthong spices the respulse bay

What is the major difference between cooking for diners in Bangkok at Thipthara, versus cooking Thai food overseas?

In Thipthara, Bangkok, we serve authentic Thai food with robust flavours, readily incorporating the unique Thai spices that give our dishes their distinctive taste. Cooking abroad may involve challenges in sourcing specific spices, though I ensure that the essential spices for each dish are present to maintain the genuine Thai flavour.

What makes a Thai dish ‘authentic’ or ‘genuine’?

The authenticity of a Thai dish can be discerned by its appearance after cooking and the precise selection of ingredients used. These elements serve as indicators of whether a dish truly embodies the essence of Thai cuisine.

chef monnipa rungthong in kitchen with sous chef

How do you feel about the representation of Thai food in the culinary canon? How would you like to leave your mark?

In my opinion, authentic Thai food requires the correct use of ingredients, cooking techniques, and the incorporation of fresh herbs.

Thai dishes often comprise numerous ingredients and intricate steps that demand time and attention to prepare. Deviating from these steps can result in a different taste. Furthermore, the use of fresh herbs enhances the flavours.

My aspiration is to introduce genuine Thai cuisine to more people in different countries where the true essence and correct ingredients of Thai flavours may still be lacking.

What is a foreign cuisine you would like to explore?

Through my work, I have had the opportunity to experience various cuisines. However, I am particularly drawn to Japanese and Mexican cuisines. These culinary traditions offer a multitude of dishes that resonate with the palates of Thai people, including myself.

thai food thai green curry chef monnipa rungthong thiptara the peninsula bangkok

What are the pantry staples you could recommend to a beginner who wants to start cooking Thai food?

To embark on a journey of Thai cooking, familiarise yourself with the key flavours present in various Thai dishes.

For example, in Pad Thai, the combination of sourness from tamarind, saltiness from fish sauce, and sweetness from palm sugar, accompanied by the refreshing zest of lime, cuts through any greasiness. Understanding and mastering these flavours is a great starting point for learning to cook Thai food.

What is your favourite comfort food dish?

Personally, I gravitate toward curry-based dishes as my go-to comfort food. When preparing curry paste, I take the time to incorporate an abundance of aromatic herbs and spices. Although this extends the preparation process, the result is always a delightful and authentic curry experience.

Click here to discover more about Chef Monnipa’s Thai cuisine at Thiptara at The Peninsula, Bangkok.

Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Yes, Chef! articles here.

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