Why San’s the man for Asian food in Sandyford

Chef San Tamilarasan’s love for food begun when he was very young.

Walking home from school in his native Malaysia, he’d try to guess what his neighbours were cooking for their evening meal by his sense of smell alone.

San in MyThai

Head Chef San at My Thai restaurant at The Beacon, Sandyford,

It could be quite a challenge. Malaysia’s Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnic mix has long been famous for its part in creating an incredibly diverse food culture.

Young San was keen to learn. And, fortunately for him, his culinary hero was close to home. ‘That would be my grandmother,’ he says. ’She taught me hundreds of dishes.’

His journey from Malaysia to The Beacon wasn’t exactly planned.

‘I started at 18 years old in the kitchens of the big international hotels in Kuala Lumpur and worked my way up to Chef de Partie, banqueting manager and so on,’ he says.

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Along with a friend, he was keen to develop his career abroad. ‘I was thinking about Cambodia but my manager/agent said ‘Why don’t you give Europe a try? It was a good call as Europe was booming back at that time. So I said yes, not knowing he’d put me forward for jobs here.’

While San’s papers came through for Ireland, his friend’s came through for the UK.

‘To be honest, I didn’t really know exactly where Ireland was and I wasn’t sure I wanted to work here. But I did my geography, looked at the maps and I came over in 2001.’

It is hard to imagine now in the early 2000s there were very few Thai restaurants in Dublin. Thai restaurants were rare back then but within five years, everything had changed. ‘Thai restaurants starting coming up like mushrooms,’ he says.

Life as Head Chef in the Beacon has not been without its challenges since San moved to the Sandyford hotel as Head Chef in 2005.

‘The recession was tough,’ says San. ‘But the restaurant was okay. We are lucky to have customers that we know by name, who come back to us time and time again. Not just from Dublin, but from further out too, in places like Wicklow and beyond.’

One innovation born of the recession was a delivery service, which continues to this day.

‘We are not really takeaway people but the service is popular as the food you get delivered to you is exactly the same as you would get in the restaurant,’ says the 46-year-old.

My Thai’s neighbours in The Beacon Hospital are big fans of this service. ‘The doctors, surgeons and staff in the Beacon like our food,’ says San.

Nasi Goreng is a particular favourite of the medical staff and, for that matter, all the customers of My Thai.

‘It’s one of the top items that stays on our menu, even when we change it every three months.’ Other favourites, says San, are green chicken curry, Singapore noodles and dumplings.

Reflecting his background in the eclectic food culture of Malaysia, the friendly chef is keen to stress that My Thai at the Beacon offers more than just Thai food, despite its name.

‘It’s Asian food, fusion if you want. As well as Thai, we have Malaysian, Singapore, Cambodian and some East Indian dishes. ‘

San inside the MyThai restuarant

San shows how it’s done at a cookery class in The Beacon,

The Beacon is a place where fresh thinking is appreciated. Since 2006, San and the My Thai team have also branched out into cooking classes.

‘That was a team idea and it’s been successful. We set it up like a mini college and get people making dishes from scratch. They make spring rolls, green chicken curry and other dishes and we look at ingredients people might not have seen like galangal and turmeric root.’

San says he would love to bring in other Asian cooking ingredients into the courses including the infamous Durian fruit – often banned in Asia from public places. ‘I could bring in a Durian,‘ San laughs. ’But I wouldn’t recommend it. It is very smelly.’

He is a man continually on the lookout for new trends, fresh innovations.  ‘We have to change to meet changing tastes,’ he says. The My Thai kitchen in the Beacon, for example, offers hotel guests breakfast and lunch menus and in recent times, caters for demand for gluten-free and celiac-friendly options.

My Thai is also offering a Summer barbeque menu while San also has exciting plans for the new East restaurant which he also runs in the Beacon’s sister hotel The Spencer, located in the IFSC on the River Liffey.

’I would love to bring the experience of steamboat to Dublin,’ he says.  

Steamboat, sometimes called hot pot, is an Asian cooking style where thinly sliced meat, vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings and seafood is cooked by diners at individual tables, each installed with a metal pot of simmering stock. The food is then eaten with a range of dipping sauces.

It’s clear San is a passionate advocate for Asian food.

‘There’s a big difference between Asia and Europe in attitudes to food,’ he says. ‘Where I come from food is more than just food. It can be a remedy if you are ill. You chose your meal depending on what elements your body needs. It’s all very healthy food.’

What could be more perfect? San and the team’s fabulous food tastes good – and does you good too! If you haven’t enjoyed it yet, now’s the time to head to The Beacon – or  The Spencer – and try it for yourself.

My Thai Restaurant
The Beacon Hotel
Beacon Court
Sandyford
Dublin 18

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