Gender-reassigned and a woman at last, Pauline Ngarmpring has just realised another long-held dream
THE SECOND major chapter in Pinit Ngarmpring life-changing transformation has begun in the kitchen – Pauline Kitchen, to be exact.
Pauline is the name Pinit adopted after undergoing gender reassignment in the United States, fulfilling a childhood dream of being a woman.
On her return home, Phase 2 began and a second dream came true – opening Pauline Kitchen on Rat Pattana Road in northeast Bangkok’s Saphan Sung district.
The 60-seat restaurant – rustic/industrial in metal sheets and chic in black and orange – offers a tantalising fusion of Thai and western cuisine that really shows off Pauline’s talents as a cook.
The newly opened Pauline Kitchen is located in northeast Bangkok.
Pauline was still Pinit when she taught herself to cook and learned kitchen management while working at restaurants in New York and California.
That was decades ago, Pauline hiding behind faux masculinity, a guise she maintained as a business reporter with the Bangkok Post.
Next came the acquisition of marketing knowledge at Ogilvy Public Relations, Mazda Sales and Mitsubishi Motors. In 2001 Pinit founded the Cheerthai Power Club, which supported the national football team, and became a popular fixture on the scene.
He was successful in every endeavour – but there was still a dream unrealised.
Pinit knew from an early age that there was a Pauline inside him.
“My father was a professional boxer,” Pauline says now, “and, after he saw me holding my spoon in my thumb and forefinger with the other fingers sticking daintily up in the air, he devised a daily training programme for me. Since then I always hid behind masculine characteristics.
“I’ve enjoyed huge success in my career and with Cheerthai, but my heart could no longer be refused. In 2012 I left the club and opened my first restaurant, the Cheerthai Steakhouse in Chumphon, where I learned to cook by watching the celebrity chefs on YouTube, like Jamie Oliver. It was a way to disengage myself.”
In childhood, Pauline learned basic cooking skills from her mum, who made pad thai to sell. Years later, while working at the Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration, Pauline had a food stall of her own, peddling fish-maw soup in clay pots.
“It was just a hobby, but a great way to relieve stress.”
Pauline Kitchen opened three months ago with a wide selection of tempting and easy-to-eat dishes, including pizza, pasta and noodles and fried rice.
The Thai-Western twist takes the form of local spices and herbs combined with modern foreign cooking techniques to create different textures and keep the flavouring mellow. Among the top-notch ingredients are sweet Thai pumpkin, Brazilian beef and New Zealand lamb.
Nam Phrik Oong Pizza
“The best cooking uses science and art together in creating different layers of textures and flavours,” Pauline says.
“I noticed how male chefs tend to be bold in their creativity, whereas women chefs usually stick to tradition. It also seems to me that Western cuisine has continuously developed, but Thais eat the same dishes their ancestors did. In the past we used whatever ingredients were around us, but today we have a much greater choice to play with and create interesting new tastes.”
A traditional recipe provides the basis for her lemongrass-tangy Yellow Pumpkin Soup (Bt100). Pauline gives it sweetness by deploying onions and carrots rather than sugar. Aromatic and spicy Omar Wings (Bt150) blend in garlic and chilli sauce.
Pauline Beef Salad
Perfect for sharing, the Pauline Beef Salad (Bt180) has a refreshing herbal dressing that harmoniously mingles cream of tartar, orange sauce, lemongrass, mustard and Brazilian rib-eye that’s been marinated and grilled.
Thai meets Italian in the super-thin and crispy Nam Phrik Oong Pizza (Bt240). The topping is homemade northern-style chilli-tomato sauce, minced pork and herbs.
Pauline Duck Basil Pasta
We have to try the Pauline Duck Basil Pasta (Bt240), she says. The duck breast is marinated in Chinese herbs to eliminate the gamy odour, roasted for six hours and finally grilled until the skin is crispy. Presented in a sauce made from fresh Valencia oranges, it’s delightfully smooth on the palate.
Recent additions to the menu include favourite Chinese and Thai delicacies, such as Beef Stew, Fish Maw Soup and Shark Fin Soup, all served in clay pots, and Red Wine Isaan Sausage.
Peakpoon, a pandanus-leaf pudding
Desserts command our attention, led by her homemade Peakpoon (Bt120), a hot, green and soft pudding made from pandanus leaf. This is paired with cookie-and-cream ice cream and the whole is served in caramel sauce and coconut milk.
No one goes thirsty. There’s an admirable wine list spanning Spain, Australia, France and Chile, with servings starting at Bt160 per glass and Bt1,060 for a bottle.
MAGIC IN EVERY MEAL
Pauline Kitchen is at 259/1 Rat Pattana Road, off Soi Mistine. It’s open daily from noon to 10pm.
Call (095) 403 8341 or visit the “Pauline Kitchen Bangkok” page on Facebook.