Real connoisseurs of all things epicurean will, no doubt, have had their fair share of thai food. But, we can guarantee that you’ve never tasted anything like what Michelin Star Chef Henrik Yde-Andersen will serve up. This month, he’ll be cooking as guest chef in Emirates Palace’s beautiful seafood dining spot; Sayad Restaurant. FACT caught up with the innovative danish chef to learn just how someone with a background in classical french cooking develops a taste and passion for Thai cuisine…

Chef Henrik Yde-Andersen is the founder and owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen (the first Thai restaurant outside of Thailand to receive a Michelin Star) and co-founder and consulting chef of Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin in Bangkok. His culinary journey began as a junior chef, training in traditional French cuisine and working in numerous European countries. Though he’s European by nationality, he was destined to the world of Thai and Asian cuisine. From January 14 to 19, Chef Henrik will be preparing a special menu for guests to indulge at Sayad restaurant in Emirates Palace. We caught up with him ahead of the gastronomy delight…

You are a classically trained French chef. How does this coincide with you cooking Thai cuisine?

It was quite a shock to me when I arrived in Thailand, everything was culinary anarchy, sugar in the main course, salt into the dessert, and the ever present chili in all dishes. It took me months to put down my “French” background and truly try to understand the secret to Thai food.

What inspired you to start cooking Thai food?

I was in Thailand on holiday and, on my first night, I went to the beach and had my first go with Thai food. I tried Kai Palo (Five Spice Meat and Egg Stew) from a roadside food stall, which left me speechless. It brought tears to my eyes – that’s how spicy it was – I loved every single bite. I went to the restaurant the following morning and asked to learn a few tricks. Five years passed before I returned to Denmark.

Beef with oyster-sauce

What was your “ah ha” moment with Thai cuisine that made you fall in love with it?

The balance between sour, sweet, spicy and salty was phenomenal, and I realised that I had never tasted real Thai food before, at least not authentically spiced Thai food, so I was so surprised. I was also blown away by the atmosphere in the kitchen. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. The chefs were not managed through fear. Instead, it was a nice group of chefs working like a family. I was fed up with the restaurant industry, the long hours, the screaming and yelling and, in Thailand, I found new energy and piece of mind.

Banana Cake with salted ice-cream and caramelized milk

Was your take on Thai food inspired by any particular region of Thailand?

I came to the southern part of Thailand first, and as you know your first love never dies. The variety of seafood there and the Indian sub-continent’s influence on the Thai cuisine creates a very unique flavour profile that I fell in love with and felt compelled to share with others.

Thai food is a lot of people’s favourite cuisine, what do you think is its major appeal?

Deep and well-rounded flavours strike every single taste bud and leaves diners feeling blessed. It’s not hard to understand why the Thai people seem so calm, charming and content—fantastic, freshly- cooked food with fresh ingredients is everywhere. Our Thai Ambassador in Denmark says that every restaurant should see them self as an ambassador of Thai food, culture, and the Thai people’s gentle ways.

Thai cuisine is celebrated for its intense flavour explosions. As a chef, how would you describe that sensation?

There is simply no holding back in Thai cuisine, and there is no being reserved with ingredients and flavours as we do in the West. As a Chef with a Nordic background, which everyone knows is characterized by bland flavours and even blander produce, such as cabbage and potatoes, Thai food is nirvana.

What was it liking being a Danish chef introducing his deconstructed versions of Thai classics to Thai diners? What has the response been like in Bangkok?

To say we were sleepless in Bangkok the first three months would be an understatement. We hurled a culinary bump right in the middle of Bangkok, and those who expected classic Thai dishes were utterly disappointed. We swiftly learned to be much better about explaining our concept, and the respect slowly grew and word of mouth spread. I am so proud today when I see young Thai chef finding inspiration in what we do and our modern spin on Thai cuisine.

You refer to your cooking as “Thai-inspired cuisine with a modern twist” – What is Thai and what is modern about it?

We serve the dishes one-by-one in a classic Thai way, which is to serve and share all dishes at the same time. I like to control the timing and make sure each dish hits the table when it is cooked perfectly and in the order where it shines most. “Modern” is a just a term we use to liberate ourselves from the norm and to open people’s minds to flavours and textures they might not think possible. The battle against people’s expectations is what we wage most.

What’s the story behind your signature dish?

Our frozen curry came to be one morning when I had some leftover red curry in the refrigerator from the night before. For a moment, the coolness, sweetness and texture of the coconut milk reminded me of ice cream, and then I decided it needed to be served with lobster, and that is simply how frozen curry was born.

What can diners in Abu Dhabi expect to try?

I will bring an exact copy of the dishes we do in Denmark and Bangkok, and I hope UAE diners will love it. ✤

GO: Chef Henrik Yde-Andersen will prepare a set menu and a la carte menu items for diners at Sayad restaurant, Emirates Palace. Dine from January 14 to 19 to try his innovative Thai food creations. Call (0)2 690 9000 for reservations and more information.