photos provided by Douglas Merriam
For the past several years, Chef Kim Nath Nau was the woman behind Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen’s wildly popular Thai Night in Santa Fe. Her Tom Yum and Thai-Khmer soups have won multiple awards at the Santa Fe Souper Bowl. And now, she wants to bring flavors that are even closer to home for her into your kitchen.
She calls her new fare “Inspired Khmer.” It’s a melding of her multi-ethnic heritage, blending Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese with her native Cambodian cuisine, and Indian spices for flair. For Chef Nath, that means lots of fresh herbs and spices, creativity, and craft brought together delightfully with her beaming generosity.
On a chilly night in mid-November, I knocked on the wooden door of a house at the edge of Santa Fe where I’d been invited to join a small group to experience Chef Nath’s new personal chef service. Chef Nath had been busy preparing a four-course meal in the kitchen of her dear friend and our host, Karen Wolfe-Mattison, but she also took the time to answer the door herself. Unhurried, she greeted each guest with deep, authentic attention.
This is just the kind of service Chef Nath hopes to offer to more homes in New Mexico and Colorado: She’ll take care of all the prep, serving, and cleanup, freeing the party host to enjoy the gathering stress-free.
Clockwise, top left: Shrimp Avocado Springs Rolls, Pad Thai Shrimp, Lemongrass Beef and Tom Yum Chicken
Personal chef service isn’t yet common in Santa Fe, says Annette Prapasiri, who helped to coordinate the event. And it’s different from catering because the food is prepared right in your own kitchen. As we settled into Wolfe-Mattison’s house, the smells of the dishes awaiting us — aromas of turmeric and lemongrass, seafood and lamb — teased our senses.
Chef Nath looked right at home at the counter where she was plating the appetizers. “I like to get to know people’s kitchens,” she told me as she arranged tender chicken skewers with lemongrass and turmeric on small plates with cucumber relish and a peanut sauce.
As we sat down with our skewers, Matt Slaughter filled our wine glasses with a dry German Reisling he’d selected to complement the meat. With each course, he introduced a new wine to match the flavors. Wine pairing, table service and post-dinner cleanup are a few additional services Chef Nath will arrange, should a host desire.
The second culinary delight of the evening was Tom Yum Seafood, a complex soup of lobster tail, black mussels and shrimp in a deep brown lemongrass–galangal broth, with just a touch of tamarind and coconut cream. It was exquisite as served, but a spoonful of Chef Nath’s sweet and sour jalapeños added a bright — and spicy — touch.
The portions looked a bit small as we began, but by the time I’d made it halfway through the curried lamb with rice and vegetables, I saw the wisdom in the truly ample servings. Eating slowly, savoring the flavors, a table full of once-strangers laughed and connected, and filled right up. I barely had room for the coconut ice cream and rose tea dessert!