Breathing new life into a familial heritage, Baan Ya Hom presents time-honoured Thai recipes infused with the wisdom of ancient apothecary. Tucked away in a secluded alleyway between Soi Damnoen Klang Tai and Trok Sa-ke, the restaurant offers a warm and inviting atmosphere within the walls of a century-old colonial house, which once served as the Boonyaratavej family's apothecary shop.
The house was left untouched for over two decades before Dolchai "Ike" Boonyaratavej, a member of the Boonyaratavej clan's fifth generation, gave it a new lease on life as a restaurant that presents his family's expertise.
"I was raised by my great-great-grandmother's family, skilled cooks who had served in the palace. I didn't want the traditional recipes I grew up with to be lost with time, so I re-imagined them with a twist, infused with the knowledge of herbs and spices passed down from my great-great-grandfather, an accomplished apothecary," Dolchai shared.
In Bangkok's old town, where traditional Thai restaurants abound, Baan Ya Hom (open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-9pm) stands out for its unconventional approach by elevating traditional flavours to a new and aromatic level. The restaurant offers a family-sharing style meal, perfect for breaking bread — or should I say rice — with loved ones.
A light snack for a starter: Crispy shrimp spring roll (B95), a slender but mighty bite bursting with a generous amount of shrimp. Fried mushroom with herbal sauce (B120) is succulent golden needle mushrooms dipped in a batter before being deep-fried to perfection. The dip, nam prik pao, comes with an aromatic twist. It's a mix of herbs with anise being the secret ingredient.
Baan Ya Hom's take on Cabbage with fish sauce (B120) was less oily than at the other places I have had the dish at. The fish sauce is simmered with sugar before being stir-fried with cabbage and is topped with sun-dried shrimp. The key to this dish's success is the way it is prepared: the cabbage goes into the wok last, allowing it to retain its fresh and crunchy texture.
Pork with shrimp paste (B160) is a dish that showcases the balance of sweetness and saltiness. For a bolder taste, try the Stir-fried prawns with Thai chilli (B250), packed with a spicy kick that will excite your palate.
Cool off from the spicy dishes with signature herbal-infused drinks, like Uthai peach refresher (B120). The refreshing taste of Uthaitip, a red herbal extract, gave me a bout of nostalgia and took me back to my childhood when I was given a similar drink in an aluminium sliver bowl at my grandparents' house. Ya Hom-infused teas, which enhance digestion and soothe the senses, pairs the traditional Thai herbal aromatic medicinal powder with a selection of aromatic plants such as lemongrass, pandan and chrysanthemum flower.
Red curry with seabass and chaplu leaves (B250) made a grand entrance through its appetising aroma. Chunks of the fish in a flavourful and creamy soup, packed a punch with spices and a peppery tang. Sweet and sour pork spare rib soup (tom jiew/B180) is a signature here. "The soup is a favourite during flu season as it has Thai basil, holy basil and Thai chilli, which helps soothe cold and flu symptoms, while potato and pork ribs lend natural sweetness", explains Ike.
Though I've had my fair share of Kai palo or five-spice egg and pork belly stew (B160), Baan Ya Hom's version managed to surprise me with an unexpected characteristic and extra flavour and spice aroma.
Treat your sweet tooth to Tako or Thai coconut pudding (B45/piece or B130/set), made using an authentic recipe and featuring three toppings: creamy taro, sweet toddy palm and fragrant coconut pandan cream. Another Thai sweet not to be missed is the Banana in coconut milk (B80), made fresh daily.
Adjacent to the house is cafe, decorated in Western style, with a small corner dedicated to Ike's fragrance brand, Sukonta. A pop-up store for his fashion label, Bangkok Treasures, can be found on the first floor, while the second floor is a spa. Visit baanyahom.com.