Is this real? Or is it a dream sequence? Im on my way to Bangkok’s finest Thai restaurant. Time is standing still as I gently glide down the gleaming “River of Kings”. We do so in a beautiful wooden-carved long tail boat. At the other end of the bank an exquisite restaurant and authentic Thai food await me. It is here that I meet the brilliant chef Uemporn Yuayaipong. Having trained in Saraburi Culinary school, she not only worked in prestigious restaurants and hotels in Macao, Maldives. Canada and Washington but also did many a Thai promotion in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, LA and many other cities. The charming Karn Puntuhong, a knowledgable foodie herself helps me by translating the chef’s explanations into English. They offer hands on, worth attending classes in Thai food. And through it all I go through some delicious learning.
WHAT IS THAI FOOD?
Im on a perpetual high on Thai! But what exactly is Thai food? It’s a trifle complicated. For, just like the world considers pizza and pasta to be quintessential Italian food (when actually they are the dishes of the southern region of Campania) and tandoori chicken and naan are perceived as Indian food (when they really belong to Punjab), similarly, much of what we wolf down as Thai food comes from the country’s central region, the area in and around Bangkok. Every region here has its own signature dishes. The food of the rugged, colder and mountainous North (watered by plenty of rivers) are distinct from those of the South. Steamed glutinous rice, local sausages (sai ua, and nham), steamed meat, roasted pork, pork resin, fried pork, fried chick- en and vegetables are some of the Northern staples. The pre- dominant taste is salty, almost to the exclusion of the sweet and sour. The influence of neighbouring Burma is strongly evident.
THAI FOOD & ENGLISH LITERATURE
It is here, that two of my passions come together in a sacred union…Thai food and English literature. And that too in the cacophonic, overcrowded, fascinating, exhausting Bangkok. Right there in this tumultuous city, there is a space which is not just stunninglybeautiful and gracious but also a cocoon of comfort. Since over 140 years, this gorgeous Mandarin Oriental hotel has retained it’s essentially, stylishly Thai soul. I have been going back again and again past many decades and each time fall even more in love with it. Helmed by the dynamic Amanda Hyndman, it continues to breathe colonial charm and high end luxury. It is here that my most favorite authors, Somerset Maugham and Noël Coward regularly stayed. Suites, where they stayed areeloquent with memory and luxury . Once again, time stands still amid luscious silks and carved teak. I trip out on many of the dining options. I enjoy the classic British High tea, served in the Author’s Lounge (named after the many famous writers who have stayed at the hotel) as much as the Chinese and French specialty restaurants.But it’s the traditional Thai with it’s tangy sweet-and-sour flavors that ricochets on my taste buds, that I always make it a point to feast on. It’s the versatile palette of Thai dips that dazzle. I request the chef for the recipes. Here they are…
M.O. THAI DIPS
Versatile dips. Can sparkle your starters and salads and mains. Choice is yours.
NAAM PRIG OONG
Ingredients; for 2
6pc dried big red chili, seedless and soaked /100 gr hard tofu and chopped in small piece / 250g cherry tomato cut in half / 3g salt / 15g light soya sauce / 15g palm sugar
1tsp coriander root, chopped / 1/2tsp galangal, chopped / 1/4cup cooking oil / 10g lime juice.
Pound dried red chili in the mortar or blander and add galangal and coriander root pound until they are mixing well then sit a side.
Heat a pan and add cooking oil brings the chili in the oil and stir until getting smell good.
And then add cherry tomato, salt, light soy sauce, palm sugar and lime juice, slowly cooked them and add tofu cook for another 5 minutes.
Remove and put in a serving cup. Then serve with fresh vegetables (Chinese cabbage, string bean, lettuce, cucumber etc.)
NAAM JIM A-JAD
Sweet chili dips
500gr white sugar / 312gr white vinegar / 23gr salt / 200gr Thai big red chili de- seed and blend it.
-mix all ingredients together in the pot and heat them in medium heat, after they are boiled, turn heat to low and continue until color becomes light yellow.
-add chili in and heat in 5 minutes.
100gr sweet chili dips / 76gr (1cup) cucumber, sliced / 20gr (¼ cup) ground peanut /
20gr big red chillies, cut into rings / Some coriander leaves.
Combine all ingredients together and serve.
230gr grilled chilis and de-skin / 8gr grilled bird’s eye chili / 40gr light soya sauce /
40gr lime juice / 230gr grilled long eggplant, de-skinned / 10gr syrup.
Crush grilled chili, bird’s eye chili and grilled long eggplant in the mortar.
Season with light soy sauce, lime juice and syrup
Served with boiled and fresh vegetables.
Ingredients; for 4
200 gr meat of ripe sweet mango / 3gr red small chili / 2gr mint stalk / 20gr lime juice /
To test salt.
Peel sweet mango meat and mixed with red chili, mint stalk, lime juice and put a blender till smooth.
Khulja simsim! I don’t even say those words and magic begins unfolding. I share some of it with you… three totally different experiences, three authentic recipes…what they have in common is the sublime, paradise, Oman. Here the vibrant blue sea kisses the dramatic mountains, and the very white, low-rise buildings dot the picturesque landscape. Here, in this harsh, arid desert the cuisine is rich and multilayered and the Omani s friendly and warm.
How do they do it? Contemporary and exotic, world class and authentic, Asian serenity and Arab grace all tango superstylishly in this 21 acres of palmtree lined, beachfront sanctuary.
I cant enough of the Middle Eastern reflecting pools, fountain courtyards or of the Eastern-influenced minimalism Zen pools in the gardens. It’s so calm and relaxed that it’s difficult to believe we are in the middle of the capital city of Oman. I dine in the main restaurant, simply called The Restaurant. Omani arches, four open kitchens (
Indian, Mediterranean, Asian and Arabic) shimmering chandeliers inside and alfresco seating under the glittering stars outside. Here, I not only taste authentic Parsi patranimachi steamed in a banana leaf ( by chef Sunil Thankappan) but also superb Oriental and European delicacies. The dynamic Lore Koenig who helms this oasis of luxurious calm not only peppers our dinner with amazing insights into it but also serves up an unending parade of desserts. For the first time ever, I have French pastry with an Omani sweet ( Chef Gilles Winterberger) generously shares the recipe of the “Pearl of Oman” (with Omani halwa)
THE CASTLE ON THE SEA
It’s on the stunningly blue high-seas that I get an authentic taste of Oman. A thoughtfully prepared breakfast rich with Omani flavors enlivens my trip. We zip back to the arc of the sparkling bay of Al Jissah, I head to the magnificnet Al Husn – inspired by the historic architecture of Omani forts for an amazing Omani lunch conjured by the brilliant Omani chef Shabani and supertalented Michael Pearson. Robustly spiced Lamb Salooni, fragrant rice dish of Kabouli, lamb shuwa dazzle. What amazes is themindblowingly huge choice of cuisines in these three in one Shangrila hotels with stunning views of the coastline. The name Al Husn means “The Fort” or “The Castle” and as I walk through the fusion of Moorish architecture in the style of the Alhambra, under palm trees and through courtyards I am bowled over. I eat the worlds best kunafa at their Moroccon restaurant, Shahrazad, the sweetfleshed Omani lobsters made even more delightful by Merrinnage Shammi De. On my request, they share the recipe of the fragrant Omani Kabouli rice dish.
Home sweet home
To be welcomed into an Omani home is a treat and then to be served up cutting edge Omani food is a super surprise. The vivacious and talented couple Chef Salim Al Kalbani and Amal Al Khabori dazzle. “A passion for foodwhere local flavors are into international Cuisines” is the tagline for their cutting edge culinary creator company named “The Dried lemon”
They transform the humble dried lemon, ( black lemon or Loomie Omani) into a gourmet delight by infusing it into their signature dishes.
And so not only have they been invited and have wowed many an audience in Oman but also in Italy and New york. They are all set to dazzle the world with yet another gourmet surprise…a restaurant!
Today, they’ve share the recipe of the Omani Sawula and Silqah with us.
PS Should you want any of the unique recipes shared by the three please email email@example.com, instagram and tweet @rashmiudaysingh and I’ll send them to you. Happily!
While in New york another high point was the mindblowing 5 hour degustation dinner in the 8 acre farm of the Rockefellers where the “Blue Hill on the Stone Barnes” is located. It was all about farm to table to heart. Amazing conservation and experimentation and fascinating flavors and stories brought to the table. Thanks Shom Hinduja and Raman Macker for your invaluable recommendation.
I write from Paradise. Why else would New York be called the Big Apple? My high points? The exquisite high-tea at “Two E” with the “worlds sexiest chef”, Vikas Khanna and the dynamic Rajesh Bhardwaj, their “Junoon” has got a Michelin star, fifth consecutive year. And just last week they cooked for Prime Minister Modi. They catch up with the brilliant Chef Ashfer Biju and Michel Mignano not only serve up English-Indian- American flavors in their “cucumber, chutney and cream cheese sandwiches” but also many a gem of sweet wizardry which the dapper French Francois Luiggi (chief of the iconic Pierre) approves of.
Fellow foodies, come join me on a taste of the worlds most cutting edge gastronomical showcase. Here in sunny Spain there is so much to taste and see and do that Im sharing my experiences in three snapshots…after all a picture is worth a thousand words. Its been four day feast of brilliantly organised talks, discussions, cooking, tasting of food, wine, cider, oil and more. The dynamic Roser Torres has ensured that the Gastronomika remains a global standard for haute cuisine.
Your attention please! Superb surprises ahead. Please take a look at the photograph Ive shot under the trees. What you can see are Chennai’s talented homebakers and caterers. What you cannot see are the interesting and delicious food they brought along. All this for our “Whats hot Tasting session”. I ‘ve flown down from Mumbai for this and each time I conduct this session, I get surprised. Pleasantly. With the variety and vivacity.
CHUTNEYS R US
Unusual flavors tango on my tastebuds as I taste Sonya Srinivasan’s Avarampu flowers and leaves, Modakathanet al made to forgotten recipes into healthful, anti inflamatory anti bacterial chutneys and preserves. Bursting with flavor and texture are Chef Jaffar Ali’s superb repertoire of Chettinadu chutneys. Hand pounded and made of the finest ingredients by
Mani Megaly and shanti from Kariakuddi, be it the superb Ginger mango, or the unusual beetroot and broccoli. I taste these again at a memorable Chettinad meal in the Raintree and cant wait to lay my hands on the recipes and share these with you. Infact it’s thanks to the everhelpful Ahmar Siddiqui, Afzal khan, Sanjukthaa Roy and ofcourse Chef Jaffar Ali that we hold this whats hot tasting session at the Connemara hotel.
Fouziya’s line of organic pickles and preserves is tongue ticklingly good. Especially her date n lime pickle.
THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING
How about some traditional Muslim Mithai? Made from the purest of almonds (Badam ke bukath
Badam le lauz)
sobia and noorie zafar also make a superb Ande ki piyosi and more.
Velvetty creamy home made Casatta icecream made by Sadia gibran’s got top vote as did her Roat semolina cake Mamta ki Rasoi brought along delightful icecream made from natural mint and rose
And an unusual muesli butterscotch
Akshita Agarwal, a student baker’s c
akes in a jar (esp the Pineapple crunchy wit Praline) was a big hit.
Shivangi Daga’s eggless dessert classes are in demand. Susan is well known for her Xmas cakes and Brownies. Cindana of Sugar Monkeys for her
Desserts in jars, especially the Red velvet and Carrot cake.
Kashish Bathija has just started off and brought along Indian desserts.
SPECIALITIES & MORE
How would you like to cook and then party with all that you’ve cooked? All in a beautifully appointed recreational Food studio? Shree Periakaruppan’s Foodology with its many specialty chefs (F
Neelima vegan certified chef and stylist from Canada. Damyanti Paul
Srilankan food and more) is the answer. From 16 flavors in coated cashews to food for kiddies parties are Meena and Nisha chabbria’s specialty.
Ready to cook chapattis? Uma Srinivasan has them for you. She does catering too. Mansi of Foody Palace and her home chefs promote home cooked food and each one actually cooks in her own home kitchen.
WANT TO BE PART OF THIS?
Are you a home baker and caterer and want to be part of this? Or a passionate foodie like Rakesh
Raghunathan, food entrepreneur, blogger and TV show host then emailRashmiudaysingh2016@gmail.com, anjali —— instagram, twitter @rashmiudaysingh
WATCH THIS SPACEDue to space constraint Ive given you only a whiff of our tasting session. For more details (contacts etc) watch this column every other Friday…
I’m rejoicing! Im about to share some very heartening food news with you! It’s news that makes our country proud. It’s all about our very own pure vegetarian “annam” which not only stunned the carnivorous gourmets of the world but had them asking for more. This happened in the foodie city of New Orleans at the very prestigious “Dinner lab” and presenting this pristine “annam” along with its benefits as “supreme medicine” was our very own knowledgable and talented, author and chef, the Chennai based Viji Varadarajan.
PASSION FOR PASTRY
Why would I, a dyed in the drool foodie be doing here in Los Angeles’ famed fashionable Rodeo Drive? This world famous glamorous designer boulevard continues to be the crowning shopping experience. Globally renowned for it’s luxurious high fashion, Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive magnetizes the rich and the famous with its super luxurious clothes, bags, shoes and jewelery in it’s super elegant stores. But in my view, None of that can compare with the luxurious patisserie that is igniting my passion. And this is what brings me here again and again.
The Worlds 50 best restaurant awards celebrate extraordinary culinary talent providing an annual barometer of the greatest gastronomic experiences across the globe. I dine at the world’s 7th best, Dinner by Heston.