2 May 2024

Five Minutes With Keerati Jannarong, Zaab and Senn Noods

| Claire Sams
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A man holding a glass

Keerati Jannarong oversees chefs at two Lonsdale Street venues that cook up the best of Lao and Thai food. Photo: Deejay Jukic.

Who are you?

I’m Keerati Jannarong, the head chef at Zaab and Senn Noods.

What are three ways you would describe yourself?

I’m crazy about cooking – I always spend my day in the kitchen. I love eating and always try something new from different countries, and I keep mixing everything together to try to make new dishes.

How did you get involved in the hospitality industry?

This one is quite a funny story. I went into the building and construction industry when I was 20 years old. Someone I knew wanted to open a food truck, but she needed someone to help, so I helped her. After a bit, she wanted to stop, but I kept taking care of that business.

I’d found I loved cooking more than construction! I became a chef when I was around 22, and here I am with 25 years of experience.

READ ALSO Five minutes with Becky Khanthavongsa, Zaab

What is your favourite or must-use ingredient when cooking?

It’s pretty hard to say because we use a lot of ingredients, but I have to say fish sauce. It’s a really important thing when you’re making Thai and Lao food.

You can use soy sauce, but the flavour and the texture of the fish sauce are totally different.

What is your food philosophy?

I have to learn about my ingredients first – where it came from or what brand – so I can pick the best ones for my recipe. We should pick the best ingredients, the fresh ones.

Courtyard with a waitperson setting a long hightop table

Senn Noods and Zaab bring Southeast Asian flavours to the (food) heart of Braddonlao. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

What are your venues?

Zaab is quite modern, but Senn is authentic and traditional street food from Laos and Thailand.

Zaab will give you a new experience with Lao and Thai food. In the kitchen and bar, we work together to try to match the food to the cocktail. Normally, people do wine matching, but we do cocktail matching!

Senn Noods is something else. I brought the street flood flavours from Laos and Thailand to Canberra through my menu. It’s just a little bit less spicy and nothing complicated — just traditional and yummy.

Where are you travelling next?

For my next trip, I really want to go back to Southeast Asia. I want to go to Laos, Thailand and Vietnam because I need to expand my knowledge of the real food from that country,

People can say they have the best Vietnamese food in Australia, but you have no idea if it is the same in that country or not. But when you go and know the basics, the basics can become something fantastic.

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What cuisines are you always making?

When I cook, I eat a lot of Thai, Lao, Japanese and Italian food. My favourite is Khao Soi Gai. It’s a creamy curry and has little hints of Chinese food because we use noodles. The noodles came from China and then came to Thailand.

Where do you dine out for special occasions?

When I go out with my family for a special occasion, I go to Rizla. Andy [Day, the owner and operator] is one of my good friends. The other place is the Wine Room, behind my restaurant. They have good food and good wine.

Zaab restaurant Fried Egg Tofu

Keerati says quality, fresh ingredients are key when cooking Southeast Asian food—and don’t forget the fish sauce! Photo: Zaab.

Who is your biggest culinary influence?

My grandma is a farmer and can make fantastic food from scratch. If she wants to cook something, she’ll go to the garden, pick something up and get some eggs, chicken or fish. Everything is fresh from nature, and it inspired how I cook.

What was your dream job?

Something I really want to do is open a restaurant with traditional and authentic flavours that you can never, ever find anywhere else. When people think about green curries, for example, I want them to come to my restaurant because it serves simple, traditional Thai food.

An easy one to finish – what’s your go-to coffee order?

I order a flat white. I’ll go to Supersweet Cafe on Lonsdale Street—their coffee and cakes are so good.

Senn Noods is located at Unit G02/27 Lonsdale Street in Braddon and is open from 11:30 am to late (Tuesday to Sunday). Zaab is located at 2/9 Lonsdale Street, and is open for lunch from 12 pm to 3 pm (Tuesday to Sunday) and for dinner from 5 pm to late (Monday to Sunday).

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