rashmi uday singh
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!
Forever grateful. That’s what I am to all of you who keep me informed about all the holes in the wall eateries (love them). Also all the new ones. Like this one today. Im thankful to Jimmy Thakkar who I met just by chance when I was buying undhiyo, steamed muthiya and Rajkot pedas from his fabulous 18 year old shop in Grant Road. This is the second new eatery he has pointed me to, so I invited him and Nikunj Patel, his diamond merchant friend to lunch with me. They’re both pure vegetarians.
I love Bandra bar bar (sorry for that cheap pun). And, happily leading this recent new spate of bar openings is Radio bar. I had been wanting to go there ever since it opened but then one night
( clearly my lucky night, not only did I meet Shahrukh Khan at Rana kapoor’s dinner) but also Manasi Scott (who was anchoring that event). This gorgeous hippie-heart diva, singer, songwriter, actor with music in her veins and an international hit on the world charts accepted my impromptu invite. She made for the perfect guest to check out Radio Bar.