This writer takes a look at some of the delightful Thai cuisines by Chef Supattra Bonsrang at the ongoing Thai food festival.
I enter the Cafe at Hyatt Regency, which currently has on offer a 10-day Thai food festival, to sit down and feast and understand what makes the cuisine such a favourite among Indians.
When I think of Asian food, Thai is the first cuisine that crosses my mind. “There’s more to Bangkok’s cuisine than just Pad Thai,” says Chef Supattra Bonsrang and her structured menu explains it all.
The first in line are the appetisers and salads. To begin with, there is the kaffir lime-infused Yam Som-O Pomelosalad, which is downright addictive, and a regular flavour in Thai dishes. With a heavy dressing of tamarind sauce and palm sugar, the dish is a perfect blend of spicy and sweet, flavours that are often seen in the southern palates of Indian cuisine. The crispy shallot and ginger are lightly battered before being fried. The dish appears like small cheese dimsums in the first glance, and tastes like bits of sour orange with juicy pulps.
There are various renditions of every dish depending on the way its cook prepares it. Chef Supattra shares how she found the Indian customers more inclined towards food that is more spicy and less sweet. “They want a mirchtadka in North India, not sweetness. There should also be a khattapan (sour flavour) to prick their tastebuds,” she says from experience. And that is how she has planned her menu this time as well since as a chef she finds it important to adapt to her surroundings while at the same time, staying close to tradition.
This is followed by the Spicy raw papaya salad or Som Tam, a favourite of mine. It is sprinkled with cherry tomato, peanuts, shrimp crackers, and bell peppers, but does not set my tongue on fire. To appreciate a dish all its renditions must be known. I immediately give full marks to the presentation. The plate is set to make it look like white long noodles which are sprinkled with colours but the dish had an excess of spices and a pungent, stale smell.
Next up is the Fried morning glory, also known as water spinach, which is one of the tastiest dishes that I savour. With sweet chilli soya sauce the Pak boong leaf is stir-fried and presented in the form of an Indian pakoda with a slight sweet flavour instead of our garam masala.
The soup that follows, Tom Kha, the Thai coconut soup is a spicy and sour mixture of coconut milk with assorted vegetables, infused with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal and mushrooms. And when I have that bowl of delight, its tangy taste satisfy my sour buds, seemingly perfect for a weeknight dinner. When you have travelled seven to eight km of traffic-choked roads on a weeknight with no expectations from the food, but are welcomed with something spectacular both in terms of the palate and company, it sets a high mark for the rest of the week that is to follow.
I am a vegetarian and a foodie. Some of the more gastronomically experienced people around the room concur that being vegetarian is “incongruous” with being a foodie. The menu disproved them as it had a delectable list of vegetarian dishes and I tried them all. Chef Supattra’s stir-fried veg Pad Thai noodles, had not only the vegetarians but even the non-vegetarians reaching out for second helpings. While the next in line, Fried tofu, Thai fried rice also satisfies our tummies, the Seabass, red curry sauce with coconut cream, won all the hearts.
Any meal is incomplete without desserts. There is lemongrass and coconut ice cream, which seem like a tropical burst and strawberry-coloured chestnut dumplings with coconut cream and jackfruit served in vodka shot glasses. Adding to the list, there is sticky rice and fresh mango, with its sweet and salty taste taking one back to the memories of the past summer, when one gorged on mangoes or even to the seaside vendors serving raw mangoes.
The chef, from the Yasothon Province in Thailand, has cooked up a storm both in Kochi and Delhi now, loves to dig into Dosas and Idlis while the Delhi-style Dal Makhani is her “favourite.” She believes that she “can make the Indian audience happy with her food.” And, her kitchen rustles up a culinary storm leaving our hearts craving for more of each and every dish, not just one.
Writer: Chahak Mittal
Courtesy: The Pioneer