Yoga and Thai salad? What does our very own yogic tree pose (Vrikshansana) have in common with the my most favorite spicy, sweet, sour Thai “Som Tam” (raw papaya salad)? I’m getting a taste of both inside a stunningly beautiful restaurant (Yes! You read that right). That’s only for starters, not only did I get the most authentic and delicious recipe for “Som tam” , the correct way to do the Vrikashana, but also learnt more about rejuvenation and the deep and abiding connection between food and health. I ve been writing about food and wellness for over three decades (including a weekly health column for 15 years and 52 episodes of a TV show on Health) but the “Asaya” experience here, in the stunningly beautiful Rosewood, Phuket is incomparable. It’s a hands on specially curated unique concept. It is rooted in self-discovery. Along with it Im feasting on Rosewood’s “Sense of Place” philosophy and delicious food too. And getting re-energised too!
SOM TAM AND THEN SOME
Ive dined at the finest Thai restaurants of the world (including Michelin starred ones) but none comes close to the experience here at Ta khai which sprawls under ancient trees beside the shimmering Emerald bay . Here aunty Yai and uncle Nun, the most lovable accomplished chef couple cook to authentic recipes..
And they cook here in this alfresco restaurant with it’s
open kitchens and live cooking stations. Ta Khai, which means “fishing net” has not only the most beautiful setting under trees bust also the most authentic food that ricochets in a myriad flavors and textures on my palate.A kitchen-to-table herb and vegetable garden and live fish pond adds to the magic. Many an authentic Thai dish such as Poh Pia Sod (fresh Phuket spring rolls) to KhanomTuay (steamed pandanus and coconut milk custard). They are generous enough to share the authentic vegan version of the Som tam and Yam som tam (Pomelo salad) too.
Som Tam Vegan
Quantity Lts 1 portion
40ml Lime juice
60gr long bean
40gr palm sugar
(Dressing )Mixed sugar ,lime and salt well in the mixing bowl
Pound chili and garlic in the mortar then put tomatoes and long bean and pound again
Add papaya ,dressing and peanut and mixed well
Yam Som O
Quantity Lts 1 portion
40gr White sugar
30gr Roasted grated coconut
20gr Deep fried shallot (Sliced)
30ml Coconut Cream
2gr Chilli powder
50gr Shallot sliced
5gr Coriander leave
10gr Birds chili sliced
4gr Deep fried dried chilli
30gr Tamarind juice
50gr Cashew nut
Shred the Pomelo and set aside
Place the lemon juice,salt,Chilli powder and sugar in a bowl,Mix well
Add thegrated coconut,peanuts, cashew nut and coconut cream.Continue to stir
Add the Pomelo and toss
Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with fried shallots
HEALTH & FOOD
The knowledgable resident wellness practitioner, holistic wellness expert Steve Harvey has his own reason for making me eat “Som Tam”. This is the first time that I learn what food helps me when I travel a lot. “Sweet and spicy food will keep you grounded” explains Steve Harvey. This is just the beginning of my self-discovery journey. It truly is very exciting. And eye-opening. I experience their first Asaya, an innovative concept in holistic and integrative wellness journeys. It begins at Asaya’s beautiful “Wellness Atelier” with a consult with Steve Harvey. Here, the garden’s red and sweet basil, kaffir lime, lemon balm,murraya koenigii (Thai curry leaf) and pandanusingredients are crushed and blended into individual recipes for use in customized scrubs, wraps, masks and herbal compresses. The fresh Thai healing herbs are also incorporated into powerful aromatic oils used in Asaya Atelier Body Path rituals of therapeutic massages that give me deep relaxation, energy, mental clarity and relaxation. And then energy rebalancing with Himalayan singing bowls ritual follows.
Not only is my energy being rebalanced through food and therapies but even the environmentally sensitive architectural style that blends organically with the natural surroundings soothes. Through it all Im rejuvenating. And celebrating!
Nutritious is delicious, healthy is tasty, is that possible? Yes! here in this century old luxurious Italian Palace Merano it is. Its here, that for the first time ever that I have the most flavorful detox biryani and the most relaxing, stretching yoga-massage. Over the decades, the super-luxurious Palace Merano has been magnetizing global royalty to sportsmen, the super-stylish fashionistas to the those in need of healing…it also has a huge share of the well-known Indian clients too.
Here in this high ceilinged chandeleried palace in the picturesque spa town of Merano my physical and mental well-being is being harmonized to peak levels. My energy channels are being reactivated and detoxified with exclusive techniques. And here’s the best part, the food is a masterpiece of art and taste, it blitzes my tastebuds and yet is calorie controlled and vegan. Henri Chenot’s biontology, a scientific discipline that combines Chinese systems with the Western ones is working magic. As do Dominique Chenot’s detox and biolight diets based on flavor, taste and the 5 elements of Chinese medicine. Its an absolute delight to meet both the charming and dynamic pioneering health gurus behind this… and to get an insight into “biontology” and the principles of healthy eating. It’s been my life-time search, through my 15 years of weekly columns on health and TV shows to find out how to and what to eat to continue to enjoy great health. After all I don’t “eat to live” I “live to eat” and eat for a living too. Im here, getting my answers. Time to rejuvenate, celebrate…
P.S. Should you need Chenot recipes I can mail them to you, or you can download them from Amazon.
A TASTE OF THE DIVINE
Surprise of surprises. Here, in this spiritual retreat of a heaven- on- earth, I am being exposed not only to life-changing philosophies but also blowingly new perspectives on food.
Here I am in Isha Ashram. It sprawls below the majestic Velliangiri mountains, Coimbatore. The crisp, cool air of the 200 acre ashram is fragrant with flowering trees and plants. Champa and jasmine weave their heady magic. God paints his canvas with a riot of vivid colored flowers and fruits.
And in this paradise too, the fruit trees are heavy with smooth-cheeked papayas, fresh green lemons, glossy mangoes, plump custard apples and more. Each fruit bursting with goodness and flavor and color. Aptly enough, it is here that my perspectives on food get overhauled.
FOOD AND SELFLESS LOVE
Sure! Its through three decades of food writing, that I have learnt that there are some universal truths…gifted chefs skilled and experienced in the art and science of cooking produce great food. Tried and tested recipes are paramount. But I had no idea that selfless love can result in such tasty fare. Selfless love alone which drives total novices and amateurs. Here in this ashram Annadhanam ( An offering of food) is served to almost 2000 persons daily. It is totally free and is for the ashrams residents, volunteers & guests. Sattvic, positive pranic and 100% vegetarian food (a variety of salads, cereals, vegetables, fruits and porridge) is cooked here. Here’s the riveting part,
all the food here is cooked by volunteers.
Even more interestingly, these residents and volunteers in the center are from US, UK, Europe, Lebanon, of course Indian, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and many more countries. I trip out on the delicious flavors and textures of many a cuisine here and the salads surprise with their cheeky ingenuity of combinations and then they seduce. I eat them in the cool winter-sunshine, and request the two volunteers Sriram Kumar and Bharathi.V. (who have made the salads) to pose with them.Please see the photograph. They’re both full time volunteers at Isha Yoga Center and both have lovingly cubed and chopped and mixed and matched fruits and vegetables, nuts, coconut and more and produced an astonishing symphony of tastes and textures. They generously share their salad recipes with us…
TANGY, CRUNCHY SALAD
Cucumber – Pineapple Salad:
– 1 cup cubed cucumber
– 1/2 cup cubed pineapple
– 1/4 cup pomogranate
– Little finely chopped Corriander
– Salt and pepper to taste
SWEET BLISS SALAD
Carrot Chikki Salad:
– 1cup grated carrot
– 3/4 cup apple ( Julian cut)
– 2 table spoon Grated coconut ( add more if needed)
– Pomogranate for colour
– 2 table spoon of broken groundnut chikki
– 1 tablespoon honey
– cut pieces of cashew nut, Raisins
– 1 teaspoon roasted white sesame seeds
RED RICE SALAD
– 1/2 cup cut Orange pieces
– 1/2 cup cut Apple
– 1 cup torn Spinach
– 1/2 cup semi boiled red rice
– 1 cup cut cucumber
Dressing: make a paste of the below mentioned ingridients in a blender
– 1/4 cup orange juice
– 1/2 cup peeled apple
– 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon honey
– Salt and Pepper to taste.
MICHELIN-STARRED CHEF GORDON RAMSAY IN THIS ASHRAM
When the celebrated , revered and feared London based chef Gordon Ramsay’s team approached me to be his South India guide for his Channel 4 TV show “Great Escapes” I insisted he go to Isha ashram, Coimbatore and pick up not just spiritual principles but also great vegetarian cooking tips and recipes. Having done that, the committed carnivore that he is , Gordon came back to Mumbai totally impressed and converted.
He couldn’t believe how tasty the vegetarian fare was in the ashram and ofcourse he was bowled over by the erudite and enlightened, (fluent in English) Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.Here its not about vitamins, minerals or proteins. Here, food is categorized as positive pranic food ( increases vitality in the body), negative pranic food,(drains energy) and zero pranic food. While Negative pranic food comprises of Garlic,Onion,Asafoetida,Brinjal,Chili and
Coffee / tea.everything else is positive or zero pranic.
Interestingly, lime and all citrus fruits, as well as coconut are highly prized positive pranic foods.
Needless to add all the salad recipes given above are positively pranic. What is it that the hardened carnivore, globally acknowledged Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay got bowled over by? It’s the high-voltage combination of positive pranic energy and spectacular taste that is unbeatable. And addictive!