Meet Khun Lek, the chef formerly known as actress Rachel Lobangco | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Rachel Lobangco aka Khun Lek and her table full of Khanom Chan
Rachel Lobangco aka Khun Lek and her table full of Khanom Chan
Rachel Lobangco aka Khun Lek and her table full of Khanom Chan


I have a penchant for Thai desserts, snacks and rice cakes. I find their colors, textures and the artistry so fascinating!

One day, while scrolling through Instragram, I paused and took a second look, pleased to learn that someone makes khanom chan in Manila.

The soft, chewy, layered Thai dessert, made with a combination of tapioca, rice and arrowroot flours, sweetened with sugar, made tasty by a mix of coconut milk and coconut cream, and aromatic by pandan leaves, is a personal favorite.

The glistening treats made my mouth water, so much so that I instantly sent a message to the Khun Lek Authentic Thai Dessert page to order. Little did I know that Khun Lek is the culinary alter ego of Rachel Lobangco, the model, actress and now an authentic Thai cook.

While savoring the khanom chan, I exchanged text messages with Lobangco, who told me that she wants people to know her as Khun Lek, which is her Thai chef name. It was her older sister Lani who gave her the name when she started her culinary journey.

Cooking has always fascinated the former actress. The thrill, she said, is in seeing her family enjoy her food. Indeed, she loves playing with fire. And it shouldn’t be a surprise, because another passion of hers is fire dancing.

The first dish she cooked was a hit among her clique. It was pinaupong manok. She used to cook this all the time when she lived in Boracay.

It is her go-to dish for potlucks and special occasions.

Her passion for food and for the kitchen stems from her mother, Elvie, just like her fondness for all things Thai. Thai culture is a major influence in her cooking and manner of entertaining. The Lobangco kids grew up in Thailand. Their mom even speaks Thai fluently. For years, watching hawkers prepare street food captivated Khun Lek.

After college, Khun Lek explored showbiz. She started as a model, delved into acting, then into fire dancing.

Today she is focused on her culinary path. Her end goal is to be an authentic Thai cook.

Phad thai at EP Farm
Phad thai at EP Farm


Studying regional food

She first enrolled at the Espresso Academy Thailand with daughter Leona. She honed her culinary skills at the Blue Elephant Cooking School in Bangkok, Thailand. It was where she was taught royal Thai cuisine and the many local Thai desserts. She has been doing the rounds of Thailand to study regional food.

Khun Lek’s life was busy pre-pandemic. The family business, showbiz, as well as other concerns kept her preoccupied.

When the pandemic hit, the Lobangcos were stuck in Bangkok for more than two years. It was at that time that she cooked for her mom and daughter three times a day, every day! “I had no choice. If I didn’t cook, we wouldn’t eat,” she said.

She describes those days as a very domesticated time. House chores filled her day. “The lockdown humbled my family and me.”

After the pandemic, Leona finished her studies at Enderun. Finally, it was the perfect time to open a cafe, and so they did.

EP Farm Tagaytay is where you can get a taste of Khun Lek’s authentic Thai cooking. It is her own paradise where she hosts, Thai-style, by appointment only.

Instead of hiring chefs, the family wanted to do everything on their own. Khun Lek asked her mom if she could take care of the food at EP Farm. Once a family-owned private farm, it has transformed into a beauty and relaxation haven and events place.

There is never a boring day in Khun Lek’s life. During her free days she enjoys sports like muay Thai and jiu-jitsu. She also finds joy in pole dancing. There are indeed many facets to this woman.

Sticky rice with mangoes
Sticky rice with mangoes

Khun Lek’s Mango Sticky Rice

1 fresh mango (peeled and sliced)

1 1/3 c glutinous sticky rice

1 1/3 c coconut milk

1/3 c plus 3 Tbsp white sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 Tbsp toasted mung bean for garnish (alternative: sesame seeds)

Wash glutinous rice in a bowl until it is clear. Soak the rice in room temperature water for six hours or overnight.

Use traditional bamboo cone steamer (Thai-style equipment called huad is specifically for making sticky rice) or use rice cooker. Cook the rice for 20 minutes.

Transfer cooked rice into a bowl with coconut milk and cover for 15 minutes, until milk is fully absorbed.

Make sauce by mixing coconut milk, sugar and salt in a small bowl. You can add a bit of flour if necessary.

On a plate, assemble sliced mango, sticky rice, coconut milk sauce, and add toasted mung beans on top as garnish.

Instagram:, and; @iamreggieaspiras on Instagram and Facebook.


Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.