If you were to ask any Sydneysiders where the best Thai food was back in the days, Longrain restaurant was definitely high on the list and on everyone’s lips. Martin Boetz was executive chef and co-owner of Longrain Sydney for fourteen years and Longrain Melbourne for seven years. Everyone that had the opportunity to eat at Longrain Sydney in the early days would recall queues to get into the restaurant and this definitely showed how important it was for Martin to put out amazing and consistent food.
Before opening Longrain, Martin spent his career clocking hours under the legendary chef and Thai expert, David Thompson at the renowned Darley’s St Thai and then Sailor’s Thai, afterwards. Martin’s dedication to his craft has got him various awards in the Australian dining scene, including 2 chef hats under the Sydney Morning Herald good food guide as well as chef hats under the Gourmet Traveller guide.
Opening the cook’s co-op/shed in 2014, this gave Martin the opportunity to work with the amazing produce from the Hawkesbury region and bring together various events including weddings, chef collaborations but importantly, to bring people together to enjoy Martin’s passion for delicious food.
– QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH MARTIN BOETZ–
1- How do you define the style and philosophy of your cooking?
My style has been to share a family/Asian style meal that imparts generosity and has depth and abundance in flavour that compliments each other. My philosophy is all about keeping things real and seasonal.
2- Can you tell us more about what you do at the Cook’s shed?
We are a bespoke event space, creating memorable experiences for weddings, parties, launches, film shoots and also, where I personally consult on a menu for an occasion.
3- What will/should your guests expect when attending or holding an event at the Cook’s Shed?
An overall unforgettable experience with amazing views, food, styling and staff!
4- Having run the legendary Longrain restaurant as co-owner and chef for many years, what inspired you to open the cook’s co-op and now, the cook’s shed?
I was looking for a property to build a house and do some gardening but one thing led to another and all of a sudden, my life changed to growing produce supplying restaurants in Sydney with what I was growing and also, with what was available around me in the Hawkesbury. The inspiration was the abundant amount of produce surrounding my property.
5- When and how did you know you wanted to become a chef? Who and what inspired you to cook?
I was an only child and I spend a lot of time with my grandmother growing up and she loved to cook so that began my interest. At high school, I did work experience in a kitchen and that was the point when I decided to pursue a cooking profession in which I then started at 16 years old.
6- You have two cookbook, “Longrain, Modern Thai Food” and “New Thai Food”, can you tell us the story and inspiration behind these cookbooks?
The first cookbook was classic Longrain cocktails and a selection of popular dishes from the restaurant. The book was first published in 2003.
“New Thai Food” was a selection of my signature dishes. All of them, Thai inspired in which I wanted people to be able to create at home with ease and have fun doing it.
7– You opened your first restaurant Longrain Sydney back in 1999 and Melbourne followed after. Longrain was not only pumping out amazing food but also had great vibes, not to mention the countless awards that came with it. Can you tell us the secret behind running two successful restaurants and how you juggled your time in the kitchen and the day-to-day oeration?
I believe the success of a restaurant is to be visible to your customers and also to be present in the kitchens, so I would split my weeks into 3 days in Melbourne and 4 days in Sydney.
I had the travelling down to a fine art and also made great friends in Melbourne which made it a pleasure to live in 2 cities.
It was hard work which paid off by being consistent, present and motivated, But, remember to be kind to yourself which I sometimes forgot.
8- Have you got a mentor or figure that you particularly admire/respect throughout your career as a chef?
David Thompson taught me the most important thing in Thai food and that is to taste and keep your section clean. Not in those words………
9- What has been the most interesting Thai dish you have come across since dwelling into Thai food?
The fragrance of all the amazing produce that makes and goes into Thai food from pungent fish sauce, shrimp pastes, fermented fish (plaa ra), to the freshness of lemongrass, lime leaves, makrut limes, galangal, Thai basil and many more.
I have many favourites but hot and sour salad with the nuttiness of roasted rice has to be a favourite and the soup recipe that I am sharing with you.
10- Thai food in known to have complexity, layers and balance. How should one go about when developing or cooking a dish and then having to incorporate these techniques and elements into it?
Taste as you go and do not be afraid of turning up the seasoning as one must remember, if you are eating with rice, your dish cannot be bland as it is the rice that needs to be flavoured. Taste, taste, taste. Balance is the key.
11- Have you got any advice for up-and-coming chefs or anyone that would like to dwell into the world of Thai food?
Learn from a Thai cook that can generously share their knowledge and eat as much Thai food as possible.
12- Top 5 ingredients to have in your pantry.
First sauce, palm sugar, dried chilli, pickled mustard greens and an array of spices.
13- Top 5 produce to work with.
Aged grass fed beef – lesser cuts are my choice.
School prawns out of the river in front of my farm, fragrant Thai herbs and the many varieties of Australian fish and crustaceans – especially Marrons from Western Australia.
14- Where are your favourite places to eat in Sydney, Australia or anywhere in the word.
I love Italian food.
Fratelli Paradiso or Alberto’s in Sydney.
Di Satasio Citta in Melbourne.
Also, but not Italian, Ester and Fred’s in Sydney.
The river cafe in London or Locanda Locatelli, also in London.
15- What does a day off consist for Martin Boetz?
Going to the gym, walking my dog and having a laugh with my close friends.
16- If not a chef, you would be?
A florist. I love flowers.
17- Having run a successful restaurant in the past and now, with the cook’s shed. What are the future plans for Martin Boetz and the cook’s shed?
I would like to build an accommodation on my property and have a small hotel.
18- Can you share us a recipe for one of your dishes?
Steamed duck, winter melon and shiitake mushroom soup.
Steamed Duck, Winter Melon and Shiitake Mushroom Soup
- 4 Duck Leg Quarters, trimmed of excess fat
- 1 Small Winter Melon, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 Thai Pickled lime, halved
- 10 Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes, drained. Stems discarded.
- Garlic Chives, cut into 3cm lengths, to garnish.
- 5 Garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 Coriander Roots, scraped and cleaned
- 4cm piece Fresh Ginger, peeled
- 8 White Peppercorns
- 1 Small Red Onion, sliced
- 100ml Chinese Cooking Wine
- 60gm Rock Candy, pounded
- 150ml Oyster Sauce
- 100ml Light Yellow Bean Soy
- 1.5L Chicken Stock (see below)
Chicken Stock (Makes 2 litres)
- 3 Chicken Carcass, all skin and fat removed
- 4 Spring Onion (Scallions), sliced
- 1 Brown onion
- 2x4cm Pieces Fresh Ginger, sliced
- 2.5L Cold water
- Wash the chicken bones thoroughly to remove any blood. Place in a large stockpot, cover with the water and bring to the boil. As the water reaches boiling point, scum may float to the surface – skim off with a spoon to ensure a clear stock.
- Once boiling point is reached, reduce the heat to a simmer, skim off any more scum and add the spring onions, onions and ginger. Simmer for 3-5 hours over a very low heat. Strain.
- The stock keeps for 2-3 days in the refrigerator, or you can freeze it. Bring the stock to the boil before using.
- To make the soup stock, pound the garlic, coriander roots, ginger, peppercorns and onion in a mortar and pestle until well combined and a uniform paste. Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the paste and fry until it smells crisp and nutty, for about 5-6 minutes. Drain off the excess oil. Pour in the Chinese cooking wine and boil, stirring for 30 seconds to deglaze the pan. Stir in the rock candy, oyster sauce and light yellow bean soy, then add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes, skimming off any scum that rises to the top. Strain the stock and keep warm
- Set a large steamer over boiling water. Place the duck pieces, winter melon, pickled lime and mushrooms in a large heatproof bowl that will fit inside the steamer. Put the bowl in the steamer, then pour in the strained stock to come almost to the top of the bowl. Cover with a layer of baking paper, then with aluminium foil. Steam for 1.5 hours, checking the steamer’s water level throughout, and filling the boiling water as necessary.
- Remove the bowl from the steamer. Check that the duck is cooked through – the meat should fall off the bone – and the winter melon is almost translucent. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- To serve, ladle the soup stock, duck, winter melon and mushrooms into deep soup bowls. Top each with the garlic chives to garnish. Serve hot.
– FURTHER INFORMATION –
CHEF: MARTIN BOETZ
2 West Portland Road, Sackville,
New South Wales, 2756
Website – https://www.cooksshed.com/
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