Chef Goo Imthawin serves up authentic Thai flavours inspired by the street vendors of his home country.
The eldest of three, Goo was always in the family kitchen. Even as a little boy, he offered a helping hand as his aunt cooked – grinding chilli, picking basil and learning a passion for food along the way.
Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Goo moved to South Africa when he was 14 years old. He started his career working at Bangkok Wok in Durban, a restaurant that belonged to a family friend, and by the time he was 20, he had taken on the position as head chef.
He spent the next few years cooking up a storm, eventually opening his own restaurant in Florida Road in 2006. And then, in 2010, he returned to Thailand to train as a monk – a rite of passage that all Thai men must go through as an act of gratitude to their parents. He loved the experience and the opportunity to connect with Thai culture, and spent several months in the mountains and jungles of Sahatsakhan in Kalasin, a province in the north eastern part of the country. “My family wanted me to stay and be a monk for good, but there was no chance!” he laughs.
Goo returned to South Africa, and eager to continue a career in cooking, decided to undergo some formal training at the Hilton Hotel in Durban. There he learnt to cook international dishes, and fell in love with creating desserts. He also completed an online course through the HTA School of Culinary Art in Johannesburg, and after qualifying, took on the role as sous-chef at the Hilton.
Since then, Goo has gained valuable experience in the local culinary scene, having worked at the Pearls in Umhlanga, Waterfront Hotel, Onomo Hotel, and Beachwood Country Club in Durban. He says he has always loved the world of food and hospitality and the opportunity it has given him to meet and connect with people. “Our customers often become our friends,” he smiles.
Now, Goo and his wife Sheri have opened a new space at the Ballito Lifestyle Centre called Soi 55 Thai Eatery. Inspired by the food of Thai soi – streets or alleyways – the restaurant serves up authentic flavours in a modern and upmarket setting. Goo’s vision is to bring the street food for which Thailand is so well-known and loved to the North Coast, and many of the dishes are cooked on an open flame where diners can watch him at work. The intimate space spills outside – perfect for a warm Ballito evening – and the bar has a small, carefully-curated selection of cocktails made with imported ingredients.
Eager to share their food with the North Coast community, Goo and Sheri are excited about their beautiful new eatery. “This has been our plan for quite some time,” says Goo. “I love making people happy with my food.”
Details: Soi 55 Thai Eatery, Shop 55, Ballito Lifestyle Centre; IG: @soi_55_thai_eatery; FB: SOI 55 Thai Eatery
THAI GREEN PRAWN CURRY
• 2 tablespoons of green curry paste
• 2 cans of coconut milk
• 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
• 1 1/2 teaspoons of brown sugar
• 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil
• 5 de-shelled prawns
• 1/2 cup green beans, trimmed
• 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
• 2 lime leaves
• 1-2 cups sweet Thai basil
1. In a large pot heat the oil and add the curry paste. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
2. Add 1/2 cup of coconut milk and whisk to combine. Allow the coconut milk to reduce and separate from the oil.
3. Add the remaining coconut milk.
4. Stir in the sugar, fish sauce and lime leaves. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
5. Add green beans, red pepper and basil and simmer covered for 6-8 minutes.
6. Add the prawns and cook for 4 minutes.
7. Serve with a side of jasmine rice or egg noodles.
Text: Jennifer Campbell
Photographs: BRAD HAVENGA PHOTOGRAPHY & MONIQUE DE VILLIERS