My Love Is Soup: A Thai Love Recipeby Helmy Sa'at
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Forget the fiery, literally and figuratively, situation of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen season after season that has established itself as a mainstay of reality television and popular culture zeitgeist. It has and continues to successfully capture the imagination and eyeballs of millions, for more than a decade. Instead, delve into a very different kitchen of My Love Is Soup (Rak Na, Soup Soup) a romantic comedy [romcom] film hailing from the land of smiles, Thailand.
A palate cleansing.
A Brew Of Love, Pride And Prejudice
Minnie has a lot to live up to. As the descendant of a royal cuisiner originating in southern Thailand, she takes pride in her illustrious family lineage and aspires to be a chef in Bangkok, the food mecca of Thailand. A simple girl with big city dreams and aspirations. However, she finds out that it takes a lot more to be accepted as part of the industry. This, for better or worse, does not blunt her steely resolve as she casually remarks to her friend after failing to clinch a position in Bangkok despite her impressive academic resume due to her unemployment in the industry, in the past five years:
“Do you understand the word ‘talent’? If I am talented in cooking, whatever I do to the food, it will be delicious.”
Is it inherent pride that helps to build her (false sense of) confidence? Untapped potential? Perhaps, a dash of egotistical-driven aspirations anchored in a sense of entitlement? Or, quite simply, fragile mere delusions?
Soon, Minnie starts working for the famous Hunsas Restaurant, which prides itself in serving the best Malay-style cuisine. The Muslim Star award (branded after the Michelin Star) is a source of pride for its owner, the seemingly cold and distant young owner, Hunsas.
As any other typical romcom fashion, love blossoms at first sight. The meet cute scene, a romantic chance encounter wrapped up in a comedic manner, between Minnie and Hunsas occurs way before Minnie starts working at Hunsas Restaurant. As the audience, you would be able to forgive the simple and cliched approach of the film’s protagonists’ first meeting as it manages to evade the banal damsel in distress portrayal by not slipping into automated saving mode on the part of Hunsas.
Patient slurping of all the romantic cliches interspersed with comedic scenes would reward the audience with nuances of the main characters. Slowly, but surely.
Alas, a whirlwind of accidental mistake compounded by an act of sabotage leads to Hunsas Restaurant losing its coveted Muslim Star. Of course, Minnie becomes embroiled in all of it. Though reinstating the restaurant’s reputation is not the only thing on Hunsas’ mind, it leads to a delayed love confession. It serves to only add more distance between him and Minnie through his playful teasing easily misconstrued as rudeness. Would Minnie ever be able to peel away her superficial prejudice towards her boss, Hunsas?
Rich Food And Heritage
Minnie’s journey of redemption in the eyes of Hunsas and her co-workers kickstarts the active exploration of the rich food heritage of Thailand, a predominantly Buddhist country, with nuances from every corner of the country. It serves as an undercurrent narrative by exploring the overlapping identities, languages, cultures and traditions through food, unrestricted by geography, differences in languages and/or religions.
Hunsas Restaurant’s redemption rests on the legendary beef soup of Minnie’s ancestor. As the head chef explains to Minnie: “The royal chef gave the secret recipe of this soup only to relatives, especially the family.” Thus, Minnie has to unlock her past memories and unearth the secret recipe that is now chained to their collective redemption.
Moreover, is the forbidden royal recipe only served to and reserved for the aristocrats?
“I believe you [Minnie] have tasted it before. This soup was not actually made for the Sultan in the palace [past kingdom of Patani Malays in southern Thailand], but he made it for gatherings and it became very famous in the past.”
Subsequently, the head chef confesses his apparent failure to replicate the legendary beef soup to Hunsas, realising that recipes, as a living heritage, with the ever-looming threat of being buried with the dead and become lost forever. This is the painful reality that the younger generation of chefs and cooks have to grapple with.
“If it is the true recipe of the royal chef’s soup, it would be better than this. It will not just taste delicious or different from other soups, but will be imprinted in the hearts of those who have tasted it.”
What is the secret recipe of this joyous tear-inducing beef soup? Before you lunge into the kitchen to cook after googling beef soup recipe, consider the following first. Are we forever to be haunted by glorious shadows of the past in order to emerge the best in the present? Is that even realistic? Therefore, an insurmountable task for Minnie and her colleagues in the kitchen?
If change is the only constant, an indicator of moving with the times, does revamping the menu and its success depends alone on a legendary recipe from the past? Hunsas Restaurant not only lost the prestigious Muslim Star award, a stamp of approval that translates to profits, but also its pride bruised for being knocked off the top spot and facing stiff rivalry from its competitors in the cut-throat food business. Does that translate into discarding the old and embracing the new? It is about reframing the conversation into a question of authenticity that is heavy on the shoulders of the new generation.
Without the legendary beef soup, is budu sauce and spicy rice salad the winning alternative? Has Hunsas Restuarant truly reached its peak and now fading in the twilight?
What Is Your Love Recipe?
Never mind the mouth-watering Tom Yum Goong, Pad Thai or Pad Krapow.
What is the recipe to a happy and successful life, especially relationships? There is no one right answer or formula. Balance as exemplified through Minnie’s journey centres on the sharing of “kindness, love, happiness and family bonding time.”
The above-mentioned is complementary of what Hunsas, from a young age, learnt from his father: “My father used to teach me that whatever the prize it is, even though it is a precious reward, it is still just an award. It is not as important as the people around us.”
By the way, have you figured out yet the saboteur(s) of Hunsas Restaurant from the very beginning?
Ultimately, this romcom is a story about redemption. To give a second chance to others and yourself. The ability to find the strength to forgive mistakes and bad choices while accepting flaws and shortcomings. Embrace sincerity in relationships guided by love is what matters more than worldly fame and wealth.
Now, head into the kitchen and start cooking your very own beef soup.
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