Tag Archives: thai

Coconut Cravings

Coconut and its versatility never ceases to amaze me.  Savoury and sweet dishes, it lends itself beautifully to both. Kerala and of course Goa abundantly use it in their cooking, as it is grows locally, but even West Bengal makes use of coconut in several dishes.  Cholar(chana) dal with coconut pieces or in Patishapta (the pancake sweet) or even narkel naru (coconut and jaggery balls)

Of course, we Goans must have coconuts in our fridge all the time as it comes handy in most of our dishes. In Goa, coconut is used to give the local flavour to our cuisine.  And I love the flavour, it imparts.

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Goan sweets cannot be made without coconut. Coconut milk and grated coconut, in fact coconut, in some form or the other, is used in sweets like Bebinca, Bolinhas, Pinac, Dodol, Baath, Alle Belle, etc.

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I love the neutral, slightly sweet taste of coconut. Perhaps that is why it integrates so well in desserts.

Recently had a delicious Alle Belle at The Leela Mumbai. The coconut and jaggery filling was perfect. Neither ingredient was overpowering the other. I also love coconut in sweets like ladoos and barfi too.

Of course in Goan sweets coconut milk is made use of often, but somehow, I prefer the desiccated version. The texture of the coconut milk or cream does not appeal to my palate, except in savoury dishes like the Goa orange curry or even a Thai red or green curry.

Interestingly, the use of coconut for desserts is not limited to Indian cuisine only. Thai cuisine uses a lot of coconut milk in their desserts too. One of my favourites is ruam mitr. I first tasted it in Bangkok. It contains jackfruit, green noodles, palm kernels, corn, and water chestnuts in a red covering, in a very light coconut milk with crushed ice. It is refreshing and perfect for summer. And it is not very sweet.

Another popular one is Khao niew bing. This too is not overpoweringly sweet, but the undertones of coconut and fruit along with smoky hints from the grilled banana leaf make it irresistible.

Coconut in any dessert is fine  as it is fairly common in global desserts too, but I cannot handle coconut ice cream at all. Not the tender coconut one at Natural’s too, although people rave about it. But I can never resist coconut macroons. Some Goa bakeries make great ones. Even Pune for that matter. Crème brulee with coconut is quite innovative as well.

And now I am off to grate coconut for my Goan dessert! Maybe some godshem?

 

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Cookout With Chef Seefah and more….

Thai food is my favourite and an opportunity to cook with Chef Seefah, a culinary wizard at Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai, was an invitation I could not resist. Giving up a Saturday afternoon in favour of this culinary pursuit, seemed worth it.

We were a small, coherent group and had a separate cooking station to ourselves. Chef Seefah, a petite young Chef, seemed even more enthusiastic than us. That really got me charged. We were going to prepare three Thai dishes with authentic ingredients, under her guidance and supervision.

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The ingredients were well laid out and we actually ground the Thai red curry paste ourselves. It was sheer joy. A sense of achievement filled me as Chef Seefah lauded my efforts for having ground a perfect paste. Vegetarian Thai red curry was what we prepared first. Felt good when it was ready and we served it in a bowl. Our very own culinary feat. Thai green curry with chicken now seemed like child’s play. That too turned out well. The green paste is aromatic and fills your nostrils as you sauté it in oil. It made me feel hungry.

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Som tam, the popular raw papaya salad was our last dish. Chef Seefah, made it look so easy and effortless as she pounded the ingredients deftly.

Another surprise lay in store for us, as we were treated to a Thai lunch with Chef Seefah’s signature dishes. Mi Grob Chao Wang (Fried Noodle in sweet and sour sauce), as the appetizer was perfect. Tingled my palate sufficiently with its subtle yet, tangy flavours. Steam Chilean Sea Bass Yellow Bean Ginger sauce with Thai Chicken Green Curry, came next. The otherwise fairly bland fish was pepped up with the yellow bean ginger sauce, flavours of which were unparalleled. Bua loy sam si ( Three – Colour Rice Dumpling in coconut Milk) was the traditional dessert, creatively prepared by Chef Seefah without any artificial flavours or colours.

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The event in association with the Thai consulate, was an enjoyable one and debunked several myth about Thai food. It is the authentic ingredients, which make all the difference. Thankfully, most of those are easily available in Mumbai now. Aren’t I glad I attended this event ? We had wonderful company, good food and the warm hospitality courtesy, Four Seasons Hotel.

Armed with tips from Chef Seefah, I am planning to cook a Thai meal soon!

Delectable Asian Journey for the Tastebuds

Pan-Asian food is my all-time favourite. And a no- frill sans fuss QSR was just what I needed. Asia on My Plate (AOMP) at Bandra Reclamation, in the western suburbs of Mumbai is a haven for food lovers. There is another outlet at Lowe Parel too.

A concept food-chain by Kashind Group, AOMP is India’s very first quick service Pan Asian restaurant in town. AOMP founders Muizz Khan and Nirbhik Trehan, told me,Although, Asian concepts have long been full-service restaurants, itwas high time that the concept of QSR for our favorite Pan Asian cuisine be introduced to India at an affordable price, without compromising on health and taste.”

Ganesh, very courteously assisted us, as we entered and acquainted us with the menu for the day. We settled for the lemon coriander chicken soup. I was expecting a watery, clear soup, but what was served was a delicious thick flavoured broth with chunks of chicken. Nice and tangy, it added the right zing to our palate.

Succulent, fattened, juicy, chicken steamed momos came next. The filling was yummy. The covering perfect, unlike what is commonly served in many places. Full marks. I was only concerned about the value for money bit. 4 pieces for Rs 175 seemed a tad expensive to me.

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The main course of noodles with chicken in a luscious sauce surpassed my expectations. The sauce was unusual and flavoursome. The orange Malaysian curry was well-made and paired well with steamed white rice. Scrumptious,  and filling. The dessert, a chocolate mousse sourced from outside was lacklustre and disappointing.

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The food chain serves ready to take away Asian Cuisine prepared by exclusive master chefs who have their experiences in various Asian Countries, hence be it your special spicy thai chicken salad LAPKAI, or Japanese veg tempura. The menu includes interesting range of combos, starters, main course and deserts along with Asian-inspired fast food salads. Not surprising at all, considering, popular Chef Nilesh Limaye, is at the helm.

If you are hard-pressed for time and want a quick, yet, satisfying meal, AOMP is the place. The added attraction is that all the dishes served are green in nature which means they are chemical and preservative free. Even Ajinomoto or MSG is strictly avoided hence it bypasses your regular Chinese fast food by miles. Kudos! I like that.

Lush flavours of the Far East : Umame

Umame has somehow always intrigued me and I have been waiting for an opportunity to sample the Pan Asian cuisine here. What better time than the week-long Times City Gourmet Week I thought, so I hopped along for a lunch.

Umame’ which means the fifth flavour, a savoury taste derived from glutamates, is an apt name for this restaurant. As the name suggests, this flavour is different from the other four well-known flavours of sweet-sour-hot and salty, Umame the restaurant too, is distinct.

The spacious seating struck me as soon as we entered. The dark wood floorings, textured charcoal-coloured ceiling and a gleaming black marble bar are majestic and appealing. The Al-fresco area that overlooks the Oval Maidan is the highlight.

The set menu for the week is by no means limited. It offers something for every palate.  The Chicken Tinola soup which I tried was soothing. A clear soup, its subtle flavours teased my taste buds and the succulent pieces of chicken were delicious. My friend’s Vietnamese Tamarind soup of tender chicken was equally a surprise. It was not too spicy like normal hot n sour soups, and yet, replete with flavours. Vegetarians may opt for Roasted Pepper and tomato cappuccino or a Tom yum with tofu and straw mushrooms. Quite innovative I thought.

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My pepper crusted Alaskan cod with balsamic teriyaki glaze, served on a bed of sticky rice and greens was an absolute treat. Grilled to perfection, the teriyaki flavour complimented the cod and the bland sticky rice paired extremely well with it.  The flavours exploded in my mouth, yet, were not overpowering.

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The Thai style barbecued chicken which my friend selected, was served with steamed rice. It had the right amount of Thai flavours and was delightful, but not extraordinary. Vegetarians need not despair. Thai Green palace curry, Cottage cheese and water chestnuts steaks in Korean sesame sauce sound equally exotic.

What do I say about the dessert- My sweet mistake? It is pure indulgence and the best I have sampled in a long time. That is a mistake I’d love to repeat. Chocolatey with a soft, creamy texture, it simply melt in my mouth. and the presentation too was outstanding.

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For lunch, there are no appetizers, but for dinner, you have a vast array to choose from. Chicken sui mai, Dumpling of prawn n chive, barbecued cottage cheese and many more.

At Rs 1000 plus taxes for lunch per head and Rs 1200 plus taxes for dinner, dining at Umame is a steal. Undoubtedly, value-for-money. The team of Chefs, Dilshad and Farrokh Khambata can take a bow. Umame is a great fine dining place sans any pretense. The service however is a bit slow and the staff, a trifle confused.

Overall, a memorable dining experience. Be sure to go there this week, if you have not already and for regulars, once is not enough!

 

 

An Oriental Treat: Mahjong

I had heard so much about Mahjong, Ramee Guestline Khar, but somehow never paid a visit. The excitement was thus doubled, as we entered. A warm welcome by Oscar Mendes the Manager, and we were seated on a nice corner table. The place was obviously popular, as it was buzzing with frenetic activity.

The fresh lime soda sweet, which is such a common drink was made to perfection. Just the way I like it. That immediately gave me a feeling of comfort.

The spicy soya coriander soup with chicken was delicious but strongly reminiscent of a hot n sour soup. The starters were an exercise in choices. The potato chilly mustard was unique. But what bowled me over completely was the crispy lotus root in sanso pepper. Crisp and crunchy, it was outstanding. Among Non vegetarian starters, grilled fish(rawas) in thai stye was good and the dumplings too were delectable. The chicken in soya chilly with bone was a dampner. No bones for me to pick!

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The personalised and prompt service of the alert staff was pleasing, but not overbearing. Prawns in chilly coriander sauce in the main course were succulent, and a real treat and paired well with the fried rice. The Veg dan mein noodles were interesting though a trifle sweetish. The shredded Cantonese style chicken too was not the run-of-the-mill stuff. In fact nothing in the menu was.

Cream custard was passable but the darsan was a bit soggy instead of the usual crisp ones. Tasted fine with the dollop of ice cream though. The desserts could be more exciting.

Chef Rana is truly a wizard in creating unique but simple fare. His flavours are subtle yet, pronounced. Oriental food with great taste sans MSG added, speaks volumes for the chef’s ability, as far as I am concerned. A thoroughly enjoyable meal.

Priced @Rs 499 plus taxes, it is shockingly value for money. They have lunch buffets too which are affordably priced. It is a great place to visit with the family or friends. What’s more the menu changes daily, so you will not be treating your palate to the same food. I love Oriental food anyway, so am not grumbling.

Lord of His Kitchen: Chef Kroongtana Nimnu

Chef Kroongtana Nimnu seems at ease in the Hotel kitchen, even though he has arrived recently.  As the new Chef De Cuisine at Ocean, Sahara Star, he is in command. Authentic Thai recipes and traditional Chinese dishes is what he has come armed with. He explains, “The menu focuses on Thai & Chinese and will have sprinkling of other Pan Asian Cuisines also. But you know, the two nations are inseparable. Thai cuisine blends the two cultures of China and India.”

 

Thai cuisine, according to him, encompasses, all flavours in one dish, sour, sweet, salty, spicy and bitter. Other cuisines salt their food with salt, but the Thai food is salty from fish sauce. He is aware that “most of our major customers are Indians. The new menu has many dishes which have a touch of Indian foods such as curry. Though, I would like to keep the original taste & flavour. However,  I am willing to meet guest preferences,” avers Chef Nimnu.

 Originally, from Thailand, he learnt cooking at an early age from his mother, owing to his keen interest in the kitchen.

 He is aware of the challenges of catering to Indians, especially Mumbaikars, who are foodies and have a discerning palate. With the variety he has introduced in the new menu, he promises his guests a gastronomical journey, like never before. 

He has seen a bit of Mumbai and the traffic intimidates him, yet eh loves the city and its people. Beneath that calm persona and quiet smile, is a confident chef, who deftly prepares food and wooes his guests.

His food struck me as very simple and authentic and yet, tuned to the Indian palate. He is obviously particular about his presentation, as each dish was uniquely and painstakingly presented.  The flavours were distinct and the aroma filled the nostrils even before one sampled the dish. Even a Thai green curry which I have been eating all my life tasted so different. Perhaps, the real one at last? Simply loved it. Am already yearning for more.