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The latest collaborator in the Raffles Courtyard series is former hedge fund manager turned private chef, Vincent Pang. The brains and hands behind Pun Im, mainly multi-courses of Thai cuisine with French techniques, he sometimes adds to the robust Thai dishes what he’s learnt during his stint at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit. 

From now till 21 November, the five dishes, available as a la carte or set, include the Gaeng Ped Bped Confit (Red Curry Duck Confit) from his private dining menu. A highlight is the traditional Miang Kham appetiser, a do-it-yourself betel leaf snack with a sweet-savoury sauce made of an assortment of aromatics such as dried shrimps, peanuts, palm sugar, toasted coconut, kaffir lime leaf, and shallots. 

In between greeting guests every Monday to Wednesday during dinner at Raffles Courtyard and busy doing R&D, we catch up with Pang to find out how he’s been faring. 

Red Curry Duck Confit & Royal Thai Crispy Rice Cracker with Pork & Peanut Sauce

Pun Im was conceived during the pandemic but now that you’ve been doing this for awhile, how have things changed? 

I think the biggest change this year compared to last was the need to migrate seamlessly between dine-in and takeaways. It was a tall task at first having to think of dishes that are well suited to travel while navigating through the logistical nightmares of packaging and cooking for a much larger audience. 

On hindsight, the last two Heightened Alert phases have given me the opportunity to train myself to be more flexible at adapting to changes, and I’m confident Pun Im can now navigate tough business conditions. 

Do your proceeds still go to a charity?

Yes, the meaning and spirit behind Pun Im is to “share the fullness”, both in terms of food and joy, so currently 20% of Pun Im’s net profits go to supporting Food From The Heart. 

Food From The Heart is one of the four food banks in Singapore and is the longest established organisation with a strong track record and a large network of beneficiaries. It stood out particularly to me due to its ever evolving creative campaigns to reach out to the underprivileged. 

(Related: Food from the Heart’s charity golf event raises over $120,000 for the needy)

What are some of the challenges you’ve had to deal with during this time of fluctuating restrictions and travel limitations? 

I think Pun Im has to a certain extent benefited from travel restrictions as people re-allocate their holiday spending on food. However, the challenge that comes with that is to dish up authentic Thai flavours as close as possible to what one can get in Thailand within our shores. Fortunately, I think my previous working experience in Thailand and my time as a culinary student in Le Cordon Bleu Dusit in Bangkok has given me a strong edge. 

Tom Yum Crab Spheres & Miang Kham

How was the working relationship/creative process with Raffles Courtyard like? 

The five dishes that we are currently serving up at Raffles Courtyard is a selection of my signature dishes from my previous and current menus at Pun Im. Given that this is my first ever collaboration, I am fortunate to receive all the help and support from the Raffles team. The chefs team in particular played an integral role in helping to improve my dishes and to make them available to a large audience. 

I have carefully selected the five dishes to represent a full Thai meal, starting from pre-appetisers and small bites to a Thai curry and a dessert to balance the meal. They are also meant to showcase my concept of Thai French fusion, and lastly, the recipes must be simple enough to be replicated with quality.  

What have you been doing since private dining has come to a halt? 

Apart from being busy with gearing up to the Raffles Courtyard pop up, I’ve been taking time off my regular dinners to do R&D on new menu items. 

What are some of the dishes that guests to Pun Im can look forward to when private dining resumes? 

The red curry duck confit currently being served at Raffles Courtyard is still on my menu. When private dining resumes, guests can look forward to an entirely different form of duck confit which I’m excited about. Guests can also look forward to seeing more French techniques being employed in the new menu items, while still preserving the authentic Thai flavours.  

(Related: 3 private dining chefs forging ahead with Asian cuisine)

What is your plan for the next few years for Pun Im?

I still dream of owning a restaurant one day, but I do recognise the tough operating environment these days. Hence, my short term goal is really to focus on serving up the most authentic and creative dishes while waiting for the right time.