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.