Chef Veena strides at Spice Route
Flavoursome/By Ravi V.Chhabra
The Imperial Hotel seated in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi has been special since decades and is mainly famous for its Raj (British era) facade, classy interiors and exclusive high-class, expatriate and stylish guests who adore brilliant hospitality and fine dining.
The fnbworld team visited the south east Asian cuisine restaurant Spice Route that is celebrating the Thai New Year or Song-kraan, a Sanskrit word in Thai denoting the entry of the sun into any sign of the zodiac - it’s the traditional New Year of Thailand celebrated over a period of three days.
The Spice Route at the Imperial Hotel is potentially different - both in its decor and cuisines. The interior walls, murals, paintings and Burma teak wood pillars have all been artistically carved, embellished in 24-karat gold and hand-painted by mural artists and painters from the south India using natural vegetable and flower dyes and colours and all this took 7-years to complete!
The Spice Route is known for being one of the top ten restaurants in the world by Conde Nast Traveler and is designed on the principles of Feng Shui, replete with a collection of antiques; the restaurant is divided into nine different sections, each being a part of life’s journey, viz. Knowledge section, Artha-Kama-Moksha, Help and Support, Creativity, Relationship section, Wealth section, Ancestral section and the Food and Health Section.
What makes the
delicacies so special here is the fact that its
Sr.Thai Consultant/ Chef Veena Arora has spent her
childhood in south of Thailand and her speciality
happens to be Thai cuisine, that comes so
naturally to her. Although she is equally adept at
cuisines from Mynamar, Malaysia, Indonesia and
She says: “The 3-days (April 13-15) Thai food journey is meant to enrich your culinary experience with a special four course authentic Thai menu, offering recipes like Kai yang - charcoal grilled chicken, Tom yum baan- spicy and sour – vegetable/ chicken/prawn soup flavoured with lemon grass and galangal, Kai Phad Noa Mai - Stir fried chicken with bamboo shoot and Thub thim krob- colourful jewel of water chestnut served in coconut milk and crushed ice in dessert options, offering you a unique Thai experience at this exclusive fine-dining.”
The Thai dishes were done deliciously with the right blend of spices and herbs befitting the Indian palate. All delicacies were prepared in mainstay Thai style and not with the slightest of Indian hint. A must try apart from the Kai Yang is the beverage Thai cold coffee, that's distinctly different than the usual milky cold coffee the Indian subcontinent is accostomed to. The service is highly efficient and the waiters are courteous, making the SR a great place to dine in a pleasant environment.
The fnbworld spoke
Veena who has been with the
Imperial Hotel since last 14-years and has
mentored the Spice Route from scratch to a roaring
fnbworld: How did your interest begin for cooking?
Chef VA: As a child, I would watch the Thailanders shread their pieces of chicken and mix it with sticky rice while eating. My curiosity began from there. Also my father is a great cook and all of us in the family are great foodies and love cooking.
I was born and brought up in Thailand in a small town named Phathalung situated in the south of Thailand and close to the sea and the Malaysian Border. My father was in the Indian National Army and posted at Burma ( Now Mynamar ) during the second world war from where he travelled to South of Thailand and settled in Phathalung. Therefore, though being an Indian by origin, I grew up amongst Thais as we were the only Indian family in this town. Our family, therefore virtually lived on Thai food, which we cherished.
Following my marriage to an Indian, I settled into India in the year 1980 and ever since then I have been living in India. We had a small restaurant in Thailand and as mentioned above, we were virtually living on Thai food. It was, therefore, easy for me to learn about Commercial Thai Cuisine. My husband and my two children also developed a palate for Thai Cuisines and thus cooking Thai Food at home has also become a pleasure.
fnbworld: How did your association begin with the
Chef VA: Well, I was to help them and oversee the restaurant whilst I was abroad. This assignment was for basically a month and a half but soon enough I became so involved and close to the project that now I would perhaps never work any where else. I am very attached to this place and being looked after very well.
fnbworld: What aspect of hotel management is worth inspiring the younger generation going by your experience?
Chef VA: The fact is that a chef’s job is highly paying. It can also make you travel and see different parts of the world. It is a job for those who have passion for it. Chef’s profession in India unlike south east Asia is a male dominated one but it is slowly changing and that is a happy trend as well.
fnbworld: Where do you source all your ingredients for such diverse south east Asian cuisines?
Chef VA: We get everything from Thailand. My husband is a wholesale supplier to many places including the Imperial Hotel. But we buy the greens, poultry, fish etc locally as they need to be absolutely fresh.