Thailand: Kin Dee restaurant

Planet Berlin: Thai home cooking

Between Thailand and Brandenburg

In Berlin, there are countless Thai restaurants. But few play out the subtleties of authentic Thai cuisine while giving the dishes a regional twist. The chef Dalad Kambhu proves that there is more to discover by reinterpreting Thai classics such as papaya salad using hand-picked ingredients from Brandenburg. Her new Thai creations have won Kin Dee five-star reviews and a loyal following.

Planet Berlin: Thai home cooking

Clean lines

Kin Dee means "eat well." And nothing should distract from that: The restaurant dispenses with the usual southeast Asian clichés, such as Buddha statues and incense — and especially chopsticks. Instead, the restaurant is minimally decorated with modern artwork adorning the walls.

Planet Berlin: Thai home cooking

Taste of home

Dalad Kambhu makes home-cooked Thai food. The self-taught chef, who was actually born in the US but was raised in Bangkok, has firmly embraced authentic dishes and preparation methods by working with homemade spice pastes and sauces. She also loves fresh produce.

Planet Berlin: Thai home cooking

Michelin star

In the immediate vicinity of the Potsdamer Strasse, a vibrant strip in the west of the city, Kin Dee is the new kid on the block. Opened in 2017, Dalad Kambhu's kitchen was awarded a prestigious Michelin star in 2019, making Kin Dee one of the 22 best restaurants in Berlin.

For former model Dalad Kambhu, Berlin is a laboratory. You can also taste this spirit in the newly interpreted Thai dishes presented at her restaurant in Tiergarten.

The first course is kohlrabi, not papaya. Dalad Kambhu's unexpected substitution makes for a brilliant take on the traditional papaya salad. That alone speaks volumes to the virtuosity of a chef who has traveled far and wide and learned enough about the essence of her ingredients to appreciate the value of truly natural, locally-sourced foods, in this case produce grown in the fields of nearby Brandenburg or the Uckermark region, or purchased from the regionally-focused Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg.

"Naturally I source the coconut milk and certain herbs from Thailand, but I simply use kohlrabi instead of mango and papaya. Sometimes I can get bok choy that is grown in Germany. When I can't, fennel is just as good," explains Dalad Kambhu, whose creations have since earned her a Michelin star.

The former model, who originally hails from Bangkok, came to Berlin chasing something that she was too late to find in her second hometown of New York: a city in the process of reinventing itself and discovering a sense of both its own regional and international character. Berlin was just such a city, an experiment in progress. It's a quality that can be both a blessing and a burden.

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Supper club origins

Finding good food made from the kind of ingredients that respect the land, the animals, and the people that bring them to the table is a rare pleasure here. A three-course menu at Dalad Kambhu's Kin Dee can set you back 48 euros, a competitive price, but one that often provokes questions. It would be a different story in New York, she says, where thai cuisine is acccepted in fine dining. The self-taught chef originally started practising her craft for friends, a venture which soon blossomed into a supper club.

But her dishes earned her quite a following in Berlin, and in Spring 2016, her guest appearances transmogrified into a more permanent arrangement – Kin Dee. Since then, Dalad Kambhu's workdays have become very long. Oh, and of course it mustn't be left out that Dalad Kambhu was actually born in Austin, Texas, rather than in Thailand. But that's just another testament to the fact that identity is an ongoing process of becoming, one which doesn't take too kindly to generalization.

Author: Clemens Niedenthal

Lützowstr. 81
10785 Berlin-Tiergarten

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