‘The dish epitomised all I had been learning – the balance of sweet, savoury, salty and sour’

My most treasured food memory: Gareth Mullins, chef

Throughout Food Month people will share with us their most treasured food memory.

People often equate their best meals to fine dining or Michelin star restaurants. Initially, when I started trying to think of mine, my earliest Michelin star dining experience came to mind. It was at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud where I ate with my dad in the early days of my career.

It definitely ranks among my favourite food memories. But my fondest is a little more simpler and romantic than that. We were backpacking through Asia, staying in very questionable accommodation, a lot different to the work environment I had left in Dublin, and we had been eating quite cost effectively (ie pot noodle equivalent). But one evening we decided to be a little braver and go and eat on the beach in Ko Samui.

There were the largest tiger prawns I had laid eyes on, cooked on an open flame barbecue and served with fragrant pineapple, chilli and coriander salsa and steamed rice.

It was a very romantic setting, we dined under the stars, sitting on the beach and I was with Denise, who is now my wife. Previous to that, we had been travelling in Australia, where I had learned a lot about Asian cooking.

The dish epitomised all I had been learning – the balance of sweet, savoury, salty and sour. The sweet from the prawn and the pineapple, fresh lime juice brought sour, heat from the scud chillis which are rampant in Thai cuisine, and salty from the fish sauce. Thailand has such a fantastic culinary heritage and you can eat very well for very little – once you are adventurous enough.

Gareth Mullins is executive chef at The Marker Hotel, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin

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