The strong flavours of fish sauce and lemongrass may make your mouth water, but Thai cuisine is a lot more than what we have come to love from our occasional holidays in Bangkok or Krabi.
Samart Muesantat, executive sous chef at Sheraton Koh Samui, is at JW Marriott Kolkata to dispel some myths about his home food, with a festival that’s on till this weekend.
“The cuisine in north Thailand is not very spicy and there is a use of lot of vegetables, especially mushrooms, along with meat like pork, duck and chicken, which are commonly eaten in the region. Seafood is not as common on the menu as there is no sea in the region. But the cuisine in the south of Thailand is very spicy and is dominated by seafood,” says chef Samart.
The other key difference between the regions is in the use of ingredients and spices. “In the north, the food is less spicy; in the central, the food is medium spicy; in the south, the food is very spicy,” adds the chef.
The festival menu features delicious clear soups and a lot of vegetarian dishes — apart from the ones we tried, take your pick from Lab Had (mixed mushroom salad with lime, chillies and mint), Tom Kha Tofu Had Rum (a tofu, mushroom and coconut soup) and Gaeng Karee Pak (Thai yellow curry with vegetables). Wash it all down with jasmine tea, or the lovely cocktails if you want.
What: Taste of Thailand Food Festival
Where: Vintage Asia, JW Marriott Kolkata
When: On till September 16; lunch (12.20pm to 3pm) on Saturdays, dinner (7pm to 11.45pm) all days and brunch (12.30pm to 3.30pm) Sunday
Meal for two: Rs 3,000-plus
Phad Thai Pak: The one dish that transports you straight to Thailand, whether it’s the beach in Phuket or the streets of Bangkok. This flat noodles are stir-fried with lots of veggies and tofu, topped with chilli flakes and ground peanuts.
Tofu Satay: Soft and succulent tofu is grilled on top of charcoal until it has a light brown skin. The trick is not to grill it for long, else the tofu turns rubbery. This appetiser from the south of Thailand is paired with peanut butter to enhance the taste and aroma.
Hoy Thod Deep: Thai cuisine and seafood go hand in hand. This fried mussel-and-taro dish is soft and juicy, and tastes great with some long bean chilli sauce. Though it’s a main- course dish, you wouldn’t mind having it as a snack.
Pla Thod Deep: Red snapper is deep fried with garlic and chillies before being doused in a basil sweet chilli sauce, which lends it the authentic Thai flavour. With some steamed jasmine rice, it’s a winner.
Sakoo Mapraw Om: If you like dessert mildly sweet, this one will win you over. Chef Muesantat rustles up one of his mother’s recipes, made with three different sizes of tapioca and coconut, and garnished with fruits like kiwi and dragon fruit.
Laab Gai: You cannot start a Thai meal without a salad, which, sometimes, is all you need when you not very hungry. This spicy chicken salad is moist, has a hint of chilli and lime juice, and a good amount of onions and basil leaf as garnish. We loved the tangy and spicy taste.
“I loved the Tofu Satay, which was delicious, and it also reminded me of my childhood because it used to be cooked on a similar charcoal that lends a smoky taste,” said Venus Asawapoom, the Thai deputy consul general, with Gaurav Singh, general manager JW Marriott Kolkata & cluster general manager, Bangladesh. “The idea is to keep doing something interesting in the hotel that is engaging. This festival is curated by a Thai speciality chef to make every dish taste as authentic as possible,” said Singh.
Guests at the special sit-down dinner raise a toast with Samurai, the yum vodka-based cocktail with a hint of chilli.
FROM THE KITCHEN
Chef Samart Muesantat tells t2 how to cook the popular Thai dish Lab Had at home...
- Mixed mushrooms 200g
- Sliced shallots 50g
- Soya sauce 3tbsp
- Lime juice 4tbsp
- Sugar 1tbsp
- Coarsely ground roasted rice 2tbsp
- Chilli powder 1tbsp
- Spring onions 20g
- Mint leaves 10g
Heat the sauce pan and pour a little cooking oil. Add the mushrooms and toss them lightly. Allow it to cool. Add all seasoning together and mix well. Spoon on the plate and top with mint leaves.
Serve the vegetables on the side.
Pictures: Rashbehari Das