A man who’s been simmering a beef stew in the same pot for four decades was the only Thai street food vendor honored yesterday with an inaugural “Essence of Asia” award by a global restaurant-ranker.
Tucked inside a double shophouse in the Ekkamai area, Wattana Panich was named in the debut version of an unranked collection of places which “breadth of the region’s gastronomic scene” made by the same Italian bottled water company of “50 Best” fame.
In the run-up to the ninth edition of what was formerly San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants (Now just Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants), the new list is also meant to recognize those who “reinvent indigenous cuisines and revive centuries-old recipes, all while playing a key role within their communities.”
Thus, Wattana Panich. There, three generations have served countless bowls of beef stew and beef noodle soup from the same stew pot. Nattapong Kaweeantawong now carries on with the family’s legacy and secret recipe of stock – a blend of star anise, garlic, black pepper, coriander root, cinnamon and more.
Apart from Wattana Panich, the only street food vendor to be awarded, other winning eateries include nose-to-tail, Isaan-style diner 100 Mahaseth, vegetarian deli shop Barefood Bangkok, which is best known for its quality vegan cheeses. Another recipient in a century-old building in the Nang Loeng area, Na Cafe, was recognized for its art, design, food and zero-waste program.
The rest of Thailand wasn’t left out. A fine-diner in Chiang Rai, Locus Native Food Lab, was recognized for its multi-course tasting menu that utilizes local farm ingredients and takes contemporary approaches to each dish. Further to the northeast is Samuay & Sons in Udon Thani, where “Chef Num” Weerawat Triyasenawat forages and works closely with local farmers to create contemporary Isaan cuisine. Weerawat also hosts workshops to help farmers promote their work and preserve indigenous wisdom and traditions.
The first batch of Essence of Asia awardees is comprised of establishments in 20 countries in Asia from Cambodia and Vietnam to Japan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.