Huat’s on my plate: The magic of food source with Pornsak

Learn what you eat, love what you eat

As a host for food programmes, Pornsak says his taste buds have been trained to be adventurous.

Photos: Pornsak

Intrepid host and globe trekker Pornsak Prajakwit has a treasure trove of food stories waiting to be discovered. The poster boy for one of Channel U’s top-rated variety programmes, Food Source, which spans four seasons and counting, is currently on the move, again, collecting more stories through his encounters with the ordinary man on the street for an upcoming and brand new programme that explores the origin stories of bentos (home-packed meals) in different countries around the world -- Food On-The-Go.

Food plays an essential role in his life – both literally and figuratively.

Pornsak’s first brush with fame came right after his hosting stint on Food Source in 2010 and in the very same year he went into F&B and opened his first Porn’s eatery with a friend which has since been expanded into a mini Thai food kingdom.

While the programme brought him tangible success, the real magic of Food Source, according to Pornsak, is going to places he’d otherwise never gain access to as an ordinary tourist, the invaluable experiences and educational food lessons.

“I never knew that lady’s fingers grew upside down or that the flowers from dragon fruits only bloom past midnight – and it only lasts for a short moment before the break of dawn. We went to the farm at 3 am and the flowers only started to bloom at close to 4 am,” shared Pornsak during a phone interview with Toggle.

According to Pornsak, filming one season of Food Source takes up to one year so as to cover all the ingredients available in spring, summer, autumn and winter. From L-R: working at the burdock farm, fishing for fresh seafood and learning about dried squid. 

Meeting farmers from all walks of life have taught him to appreciate what’s on his plate, he said.

An encounter which left a deep impression on the Thai-Chinese artiste was when he interviewed a burdock famer in Tainan, Taiwan, who spends almost 20 hours a day working in the fields and who – till this day – still prefers cultivating the root vegetable by hand instead of using machinery as it “destroys the look of his babies”.

Said Pornsak, “When I spoke to his wife I learned that you get nothing but soil and rotten stuff during the first three to four years of growing this vegetable. So why does he continue doing it? His wife started to cry as she told me of her husband’s dreams… while burdock isn’t expensive stuff like bird’s nest, he spends all day thinking of ways to successfully grow burdock and it is this pursuit of perfection that keeps him going.”

The same tenacity and drive are mirrored in Pornsak when it comes to jugging work and family commitments. Not one who rests on his laurels, he’s always on-the-move, shuttling between countries for TV projects while tending to his 92-year-old dad who resides in Thailand and F&B business. Even when he’s on holiday, he’s constantly on the lookout for interesting concepts and thinking up new recipes to experiment with at Porn’s.

Pornsak tells us long breaks are few and far between which is why he takes every opportunity he gets to visit his dad on day trips – “taking the first flight out of Singapore at 7.40 am and a night flight back from Bangkok at 7.30 pm.”

Pornsak and his dad at their favourite food haunts, clockwise from top left: At his dad’s favourite meatball noodle store in Bangkok, having a Teochew porridge meal (his dad’s favourite) together, beating the heat with ice cream and café hopping in Bangkok.

With less than 24 hours to spare in the city, the adorable father-son duo (they recently teamed up to perform at the Lions Charity Show) spend what little precious time they have together by visiting his dad’s favourite food haunts, café hopping or hanging out with his dad’s Teochew opera gang.

While he calls his dad a “typical Teochew man” and a patriarchal figure who has never done any household chores or entered the kitchen to do the dishes, Pornsak spoke fondly of the first lunchbox his dad made for him, when he was 5 years old, after his mum passed away.

“It tastes horrible lah. It was chao ta char kway teow with eggs and some unrecognisable vegetables. It was weird but it was something that he did which surprised me a lot.

“It’s a very memorable, not tasty, yucky but sweet bento,” he laughed.

The food aficionado shares with us his Tom Yum Goong recipe, insights from his travels, and talks about how different societies cope with food wastage. Find out more on the next page!

Food On-The-Go debuts April 7, 9pm on Channel U.
Watch past episodes of Food Source
Season 1, Season 2 and Season 3 on Toggle.

More Huat’s On My Plate stories:
Cooking up good vibes with Rozz
Kym Ng’s journey to domestic goddess-hood
Waste not, want not with Kate Pang

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