THE GERMAN BANGKOK RESTAURANT “SÜHRING”
Their refined German home-style cooking immediately catapulted them to 13th place on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.
The restaurant, which has seating for 70 and employs 35 people, is not located bang in the centre of Bangkok, but instead slightly outside in a former diplomatic villa, albeit in the heart of a tropical garden.
Mathias and Thomas Sühring (born in 1977) were born and raised in East Berlin.
Both trained to become chefs at a Berlin hotel. They later headed to Wolfsburg and the restaurant “Aqua” under Michelin-starred chef Sven Elverfeld.
After this, the twins went their separate ways. Mathias went to the Netherlands to work with Jonnie Boer, holder of three Michelin stars, at the restaurant “Librije”, while Thomas joined Heinz Beck at the three-star restaurant “La Pergola” in Rome.
One day, Heinz Beck sent Thomas to Bangkok on a catering job.
In Bangkok, he was then offered his first position as head chef in 2008 – at the fine dining restaurant “Mezzaluna” beneath the dome of the State Tower on the 65th floor of the hotel “lebua”.
At that time, the Indian chef Gaggan Anand was also working at “lebua”; following an internship with Ferran Adrià at “elBulli”, he began combining Indian cuisine with molecular gastronomy. He later opened Bangkok’s “Gaggan” restaurant, which is now the best-rated eatery in Asia on the “50 Best” list. Gaggan Anand encouraged the twins to open their own restaurant. Today, Gaggan Anand is also an investor and silent partner at “Sühring”.
Finding their own style
When the twins began their first jobs as head chefs in the hotel restaurant in Bangkok in 2008, they spent the first two years cooking Italian cuisine, which neither of them ever felt truly comfortable with: Why would two German chefs come all the way to Bangkok to cook Italian food?
In fact, they had barely cooked any German dishes since completing their training.
Based on these concerns, the search for a unique concept and a distinctive identity for their own future restaurant, German cuisine wasn’t actually their first idea, since German cuisine didn’t have a particularly good reputation – particularly in Asia – and always seemed to boil down to roast pork, schnitzel, sauerkraut and potato – or simply the Oktoberfest. Which is a great shame!
This, in turn, gave them their idea of presenting German cuisine in a fresh, contemporary light, just as had been done in recent years in Spain, and increasingly also in Scandinavia – to demonstrate just how diverse German cuisine is and how far it has come, and that it can also be light and creative.
And, of course, the same also applies to German viniculture, which is almost equally underrated abroad.
Finding their own restaurant
And so they launched their first restaurant of their own: “Sühring”. Known by locals simply as “The German Restaurant”, inspired by childhood memories, family recipes, years of travel and the goal of presenting German cuisine in an innovative way and taking it a step further.
Finding new twists on German dishes for the menu at “Sühring”
Here is a selection of what’s on the menu:
– “pretzel & obatzda” or “pickled herring”
– wooden board with smoked ham, pickled rainbow trout with horseradish, liver sausage, griebenschmalz and pickled gherkins
– homemade sourdough bread
– Frankfurt Green Sauce in the form of a praline
– hand-scraped cheese spätzle with shaved truffles
– roasted blood sausage on shoestring potatoes
– thinly sliced pork knuckle sandwich
– saddle of venison with schupfnudeln, Brussels sprouts and Pinot Noir sauce
– pudding and green apples
– raw marinated Simmental beef, with smoked eel, beetroot
– rainbow trout, still glassy on the inside, with crab, peas and dill
– homemade egg liqueur (“eggnog”) made using the recipe from their grandmother Christa from Lusatia
Their dishes are always served as little works of art
Guests in Thailand don’t just experience the influence of the twins’ ‘Oma’ from Germany in the food they eat, but also when they receive their bill. The Sühring brothers came up with a novel idea here. Guests are presented with their bill as a copy from Oma’s original recipe book, giving the diners a glimpse into the family’s past.
There are in fact a few similarities to Thai cuisine. Like Europeans, the Thai people eat a lot of pork, cured meats, smoked fish and even blood sausage. And fermented foods, which are currently a huge trend in German cuisine, are already very widespread and popular here.
Finding the right ingredients
Nevertheless, there are a few peculiarities when it comes to ingredients, which result from the different conditions in supply chains.
For example, dairy products like cream, butter and cheese are not used in Thailand, because cows are not kept in the same way as they are in Germany. This is why the butter used at “Sühring” is in fact made especially using German cream, just like it used to be in Oma’s kitchen.
The same grains we know in Germany aren’t cultivated in Asia. This is why “Sühring” imports various types of flour from Germany and bakes its own bread.
Much of the fish and meat are imported from Japan due to their excellent quality.
What else makes Sühring special
The people who dine at the restaurant are not German tourists or expatriates longing for a good German meal. On the contrary; most guests are Thai, despite the fact that Bangkok has recently become one of the most visited cities on the planet.
The team is special too. In Asia, being a professional chef is generally held in much higher regard than in Germany, because in Asia life simply revolves around food.
Shouting in the kitchen and stomping around, which people may know from a number of top kitchens in Europe, is frowned upon in Thailand: It would cause a chef to lose face and thus also his or her employees. People have a different philosophy when it comes to working in Thailand – and not just in the kitchen: Here everything is based on the notion of sabai, sabai, which roughly translates as ‘everything is relaxed’.
Classical cookery training at a vocational school doesn’t really exist in Thailand. Fee-paying cooking schools would be a rough equivalent.
Apart from the twins, “Sühring” employs more trained professionals from Germany, all of them with experience in the field of sophisticated gastronomy.
Finding their roots
Like Douglas McMaster and Ragnar Eiriksson, the Sühring brothers also try to work on the basis they know from their childhood, and from their memories of their parents’ and grandparents’ cooking: mostly simple, seasonal, regional and simply good.
This rediscovery of the roots of all that is simple and good is an interesting approach that would no doubt have made their grandparents proud – and arguably surprised them that it is such a great recipe for international success.