From nose-to-tail with Chalee Kader
Thai-born but of Chinese-Indian descent, Chalee Kader is the chef-owner behind some of Bangkok’s favourite food destinations. Following his education in the US, Chalee returned to his homeland determined not only to cook delicious food but to highlight the finest ingredients around.
Nowhere else is this more evident than at 100 Mahaseth, where he introduces diners to his bold nose-to-tail philosophy. While other chefs wait for suppliers to knock on their door, Chalee takes pride in personally seeking out ethical farms and making things from scratch. Here, he shares the inspiration behind his restaurant and tells us why local offcuts and entrails are certainly worth celebrating.
Your background in American kitchens?
I’ve worked in a few restaurants in San Francisco Japanese, “Californian Cuisine”, and a Diner. So I’ve just got back here in Thailand where I was born and raised here, it’s my home.
How did you start 100 Mahaseth?
We were originally going to open a Pho shop, we were going to call it Pho Marrow, Pho 100 or Pho Mahaseth then we stopped and wondered what are going to serve at night and what are we going to do with all this beef for the dinner menu.
So I thought to myself what regions would compliment the Vietnamese pho and allow us to use all parts of the animal and Issan and the North was the first thing that came to mind. So we decided to do a menu based on nose to tail from the North Northeast and its neighboring countries. The pho took a back seat and 100 mahaseth went forward.
The first approach you have to eating nose-to-trail?
As my whole life I grew up with a Chinese/Thai mother, we ate everything and was taught to eat whatever was available.
How do you define your food of 100 Mahaseth?
We wanted to do our favorites from the north and northeast and neighboring countries. The charm is in the simplicity and the availability of produce and recipes. We like to say we use the mindset of thoughtfulness of their methods of cooking and try to reinterpret new menus with that train of thought. It always feels like a feast when you eat Issan so we try to keep it as fun as possible.
How do you learn about the culture of eating entrail in Thailand?
Through personal experience and going to see in person how communities slaughter, treat, conserve, preserve and ration their meats to make none of it go to waste and spread out to their families. There’s tability to rid of offal odors by preparing, preserving, and masking flavors to go with the various textures is probably our strong.
Could you pick 2 dishes from your menu and describe what they are about and what they like?
The top two will have to be the bone marrow which we use perilla seeds from the north to go with the bone marrow from Issan cattle. This dish doesn’t exist in our traditions but all of the produce are available the flavor profile is also very Thai, it’s an original we are very proud of. Cassia curry with oxtail and buffalo hide. Very classic dish flavored with good plara eaten with kanom jeen or rice. So succulent full of umami and richness.
How do you think you can help to change people’s views or propel them towards better understanding of consuming nose-to-tail? (sustainable, or whatever…)
Doing whole cows is not a very sustainable thing. It probably leaves the most footprint of any animal food ingredients wise. But if we are going to do it we might as well do it right and respect the whole animal and be sure to use and consume it all. Teaching our kids to appreciate less popular cuts and pieces like offal is very important. Eating chicken breast and tenderloin all the time has to be quite boring, there’s so much more to it.
Thank you Chalee.