Banana, orange, yogurt and honey may sound like a tasty snack, but in the hands of author and restaurateur, Su-Mei Yu, they also make for a refreshing face scrub.
Yu – who runs a pair of award-winning restaurants in San Diego – is on Phuket to demonstrate century-old healing techniques at Mom Tri’s Villa Royale on 21 June.
The acclaimed restaurateur and author returns to Thailand often to gather new recipes and in the process she has also learned how many of the great Thai ingredients can be as beneficial to skin as they are tasty.
The free afternoon seminar at Villa Royale will give Yu an opportunity to show off some of the healing methods she has collected for her new book, The Elements of Life, A Contemporary Guide to Thai Recipes and Traditions for Healthier Living.
Born in Bangkok, Su-Mei Yu moved to America when she was still a teenager. It was not until many years later that she would discover a passion for cooking and open her first restaurant, Saffron Thai Grilled Chicken in San Diego’s India Street. The speciality of the house is a dish that Yu recreated from her memories of the grilled chicken that vendors near her childhood home in Bangkok would sell.
Such was the popularity of the Thai restaurant among San Diegans that Yu was soon encouraged to put together a cookbook. Cracking the Coconut: Classic Thai Home Cooking came out to rave reviews in 2000 – the same year that she opened her second restaurant on India Street, Saffron Noodles and Saté.
Cracking the Coconut was a huge hit, named one of the “10 Best Cookbooks of the Year.” by both The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times. Yu also received The Julia Child Award for Best First Time Author from The International Association of Culinary Professionals.
For her latest book, The Elements of Life, Yu again dug into her childhood memories of life in Bangkok and supplemented those recollections with recipes picked up during her many return visits to Thailand. This time the set out to create a collection of recipes that did more than sate the appetite.
As I child, she remembers neighbours cooking yah nang greens to cure the fever. Her mother’s remedy for fever was a rich soup made with chicken, ginger, scallions, and sesame oil. Coconut milk with cassia leaves stewed together relieved insomnia and a potion brewed from red beans and Chinese dates calmed the nerves.
During her visits Yu has also learned how the flavour and taste of different ingredients can influence well-being: the bitter taste in bitter melon, for example, reduces fever and sugar palm increases the body’s heat with its sweetness. Spicy chillies enhance the appetite, while the pungent flavours in ginger and shallots reduce bloating.
For her demonstration at Mom Tri’s Villa Royale, Su-Mei Yu will be focusing on the revitalizing effects of different ingredients. She will show how lime can cure dandruff, lemongrass restore lustre and how coconut can eradicate split-ends. She will also reveal how to use tomato to relieve acne and papaya, honey and the radish-like daikon can take years off your face.
Su-Mei Yu’s Beauty-Spa Kitchen, a demonstration of alternative uses for ingredients easily found in the kitchen or garden to make natural beauty and health treatments, will take place at Mom Tri’s Villa Royale, Kata, on 21 June, 2.30pm. Admission is free. Call 076 333 569 for details.