Sexy chef: Edmond Kwan, Key Foodplay Ingredient: Coconut

Sexy chef: Edmond Kwan, Key Foodplay Ingredient: Coconut

Edmond Kwan is the new head chef at the inspiring Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary and Luxury Spa Resort – Koh Samui, Thailand.

Edmond was born in Hong Kong, and raised and trained in Toronto Canada.  Prior to Thailand, his breadth of experience has included fine dining with the Peninsula Group , being in charge of the macrobiotic program at the Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong, and his role as superfood champion at the Westin Macau.

Edmond has always been passionate about healthy food, inspired early in his career when Toronto became very green oriented.   He took the head chef role at Kamalaya because, even staying only one night, he experienced the special feeling that is Kamalaya… “I went to the Monk’s cave, meditated a little… and felt the special uniqueness of this location.”

Edmond, what lit your passion to cook? 

I was always a mamma’s boy, the youngest of four children.  My mum was an amazing cook and loved to make all kinds of dishes – from traditional and complicated Chinese and Cantonese dishes historically made exclusively for the Emperor – like Harga Chinese dim sum (rice and tapioca flour with chestnuts and fresh shrimp inside)… through to Western dishes like lasagna.  When she first got married, she didn’t know how to cook at all but she learnt by herself how to make almost everything.  I was very introverted as a young boy, didn’t go out and play much but instead would prefer to hang out and help my mum cook… and ask questions!

Something that I took from this, is that I like to understand the “WHY” behind a dish, and the key ingredients being used.  I always ask WHY.  Even at work, some of the other chefs would say I ask too many questions – they tend to just learn it, use a particular ingredient because it’s specified, or do it because it’s good for you.  But I have always wanted to keep going deeper: Why is it good for you? Why do you mix this with that? Why does this ingredient work for this type of dish? etc. Before the internet, I would read books to find the answers to my questions.  Now I find it much easier to use the web as a source to discover more about the food.. to truly understand the WHY.

You’ve chosen COCONUT as your key Foodplay ingredient.  What is the WHY in using Coconut? … particularly to ‘Hit the Spot’?  

Coming to work in Thailand, Coconut is used so often and with so many different varieties: young, old, shredded.  Many guests ask ‘Is coconut bad for you?’ having heard it is high in cholesterol.    I went and looked for all the information I could find about coconut. I trust the non-profit research that doesn’t have a vested interest in selling anything like ‘World’s Healthiest Foods’ .

In relation to Coconut. It is a superfood, which they have found actually has an anti-cancer effect. For more information, check out: Coconut benefits and nutrition facts

Coconut is a fruit which has a nutty flavour.  It’s also important to distinguish between the characteristics of the different types of coconuts.  Young green coconuts have an amazing silky soft texture while ripe coconuts are crispy and fleshy.  You can use the milk from the ripe coconuts, or drink the water from the young coconuts (a wonderful natural electrolyte).  Fresh coconut milk, and fresh young coconuts arrive every day here at Kamalaya Thailand… when it’s fresh – you will notice a totally different taste compared to canned coconut milk.

Your Foodgasms recipe : Gotu Kola Coconut Salad

edmond recipe


  • Shallots 3g
  • Lemongrass 5g
  • Green mango 10g
  • Young coconut flesh 10g
  • Beetroot 10g
  • Black and white sesame seeds 1g
  • Gotu Kola Leaves (or Morning glory – Chinese water spinach) 10g
  • Chilli 1g
  • Wakame (seaweed) 20g
  • Dressing: Tamarind juice 10g


  1. Using a very sharp knife (Edmond recommends a ceramic knife ,which also prevents chemical change) slice the shallots and lemongrass very finely.
  2. Cut the green mango (using a cerated vegetable peeler or alternatively julienne), beetroot and coconut flesh into small bite size pieces to taste.
  3. Place all of the ingredients into a salad bowl, leaving the Gotu Kola leaves whole.
  4. Season with tamarind juice, and salt and pepper if you wish.
  5. Thorough mix the salad.

edmond us

I have never experienced such foodgasmic tastes while detoxing… what are your secrets to making healthy food taste so good here at Kamalaya, Thailand?

It’s all about freshness and getting back to basics here at Kamalaya. The team of chefs come in and prepare for lunch and dinner using basic simple methods (no high tech fancy cooking machines) – which is then served to guests straight away.

It’s also important here in Thailand to understand that Asian food is quite different in that it seeks to stimulate ALL of the tastebuds in your mouth at the same time – sweet, sour, salty and bitter.  Western food usually stimulates two of these.

In this dish – the coconut and beetroot provide sweetness, tamarind and green mango stimulate the sour receptors, wakame and vegetables generally give the salt, and finally gotu kula leaves bring out bitter flavours.  What results is an explosion in the mouth that stimulates us.. and, of course, can result in Foodgasms!

Kamalaya is all about ‘Feeling Life’s Potential’.  From your perspective, how does the amazing and healthy food at Kamalaya do this?

Kamalaya has received many awards including Best Conscious Cuisine (The Crystal Awards Asia Pacific), and Spa Cuisine of the Year (AsiaSpa Awards) 2011.  The cuisine is an integral part of the holistic wellness concept.

Our focus is on sustaining long term health, so it’s a gentle detox menu whilst extremely good for you. Developed by Karina Stewart, Kamalaya’s co-founder, everyone in the kitchen is passionate about the cuisine concept and our extensive detox menu which includes appetisers, soups, mains, and desserts.

The food we cook here has a lot of love in it.  Since my very first day, this is what I have felt from my staff – they prepare the dishes with love.

If you had one chance to give someone the best foodgasm of their life, what would you make for them?

You may think my response to this one is a little unusual, but I would make them a green vegetable broth full of nutrients, enjoyed warm or it can even be served cold.  The reason for this is that with every spoonful, the soup becomes more and more desirable… and the goodness that is in it lasts not only while you are drinking it but awakens your body and senses well afterwards.


Whilst I was quite spoilt at a young age and had been fortunate to have experienced luxurious Western and Chinese delicacies like foie gras, abalone, and lobster (…we ate lobster twice a week as my dad owned a Chinese grocery shop in Canada), I actually don’t remember when I eat those things.  I loved them and was truly Canadianised, but they weren’t foodgasmic to me.

For me, my most memorable foodgasm was when I was in Toronto eating Ethiopian food. I was 18 and we went to a unique, small restaurant with no table cloth or cutlery. The whole dish composed of one giant pancake made of a sour grain.  A selection of different curries called Wat were all served on this one pancake.

It opened my eyes to something totally different – not Chinese with chopsticks, or western with cutlery – just the raw basic way that people eat.  This was my first time eating something so exotic, and I can still remember how I felt eating it.