Joyous food by Thai Chef Siriporn
at 19 Oriental Avenue!
Thai cuisine has always been high on my dining agenda, more so during the summer of Delhi! The food is light on oil, lavish with veggies, it is not over-cooked and is quite tangy and juicy to taste.
Chef Siriporn Krasae-at is not an archetypal Thai woman and has a tall, stout frame. She is known fondly as Chef Joy. I was instantly impressed by her pleasant countenance that exuded 'foodie' confidence as she came to greet us.
We chatted about her career, the various meats that are eaten in Thailand (dog meat - like in Nagaland being one of them!) and her culinary offerings for dinner that night. Chef Joy informed me about the yearly October Vegetarian Festival in Phuket when people refrain from meat, alcohol and sex. Chef Joy happens to be the 5th oriental chef I have met at Shangri-La's - Eros Hotel, New Delhi in the last few years and I must admit, she does have a unique flair to make her fare simple and flavourful.
She belongs to the picturesque Lopburi province of Thailand and has studied at the prestigious DusitThani College in Thailand. A Thai specialty Chef, she has accumulated over ten years of rich culinary experience and has worked with some of the best hospitality brands in the world including the Grand Hyatt Mumbai, Grand Hyatt Doha, JW Marriot Phuket, Sheraton Krabi among a few more. A lover of cinema and art, she is also an avid traveler and her love for cooking and travelling has taken her around the world.
Thai cooking is akin to Chinese style of cooking in the wok. Ar Harn Vang - the appetizers served by Chef Joy were Plah Kung (Prawn with Thai herb salad) and Gai Thod Sa Mun Phai (Deep fried chicken with cashew nut and crispy Thai herbs). Favourites among others include Gai Hor Bai Teouy (Chicken in pandan leaf) and Yum Woon Sen Moo Sub (Glass noodle with minced pork).
From the vegetarian appetizers, she cooked for us the mixed mushroom salad (Yum Hed Roum) and the delightfully crispy morning glory with sweet chili sauce (Yum Phak Boong Krob). The salad makes use of top of the hollow stem of Kangkong (morning glory) plant cooked in oyster sauce and soyabean paste, had there been other greens included the flavour of the morning glory would have been lost.
Among the appetizers, the most appealing to me was the raw papaya and dry shrimp salad (Somtam Kung). Another must-try is the Pomelo, citrus fruit salad with grated coconut in tamarind sauce, fried onions and kaffir lime leaves. Kaffir lime leaves are also used in Tom Yum Kung Gaeng (soup), Thailand's famous hot and sour prawn soup with herbs, for the vegetarians it is served with mushrooms (Tom Yum Hed).
The main course included Wok fried fish with basil and mushrooms, the Massaman curry and Geang Phed Ped Yang, curry of roasted duck red curry with pineapple and miniscule pea eggplant. The two hundred years old peotic reference to Massaman curry reflects the royal origin of this Southern Thai style chicken curry with potato and onion.
Thai cooking makes use of the Jasmine rice that gets the name from the white colour of the Jasmine flower, and not the smell. For more flavour Jasmine rice is wrapped in Pandan leaf and cooked in the rice cooker.
Chef Joy explained to fnbworld that the famous Namdokmai mango from Thailand is a variety with a creamy yellow skin that can be peeled off easily like a banana. The flesh is soft and juicy and without fibres unlike regular mangoes. With a honey-like smell, the Namdokmai tastes like a very sweet mango.
The sticky rice dessert topped with coconut cream, however, included the Indian Alphonso. To innovate she included sesame seeds instead of the traditional garnishing with yellow mung beans. This was surely one of the finest Thai dinner in Delhi, perhaps second only to the one I remember so vividly that I had relished at the Imperial Hotel. I can say with certainty, I am going to miss this too for a long time…