Those living in the southern or western parts of Delhi would agree that one simply does not go all the way towards the east unless it is absolutely necessary. So when I recently travelled to Shahdara, I was obviously bound by necessity i.e food.

The serene face of a shiny gold Buddha against a backdrop of lush green trees and a vivid blue sky greeted me as I entered Mei-Kun, the South Asian restaurant at the Leela Ambience Convention Hotel in Shahdara (East Delhi).

Listening to Chef Veer Pratap enthusiastically discuss the restaurant’s new menu, I couldn’t stop myself from munching on those delicious prawn crackers on the table that lay in wait for an eager mouth. All the spices and sauces used by the restaurant were sourced from local markets in Thailand, Pratap stated as the conversation grew.

The refreshing Pomelo salad
The refreshing Pomelo salad

We began the five-course meal with an array of vibrant-looking salads—Som Tam made of raw papaya, Yum Sam O made with pomelo, cherry tomatoes and onions and a tofu salad with asparagus, bok choy and carrots—each of which tasted divine. My palate was bombarded with a burst of refreshing flavours from sweet to sour and savoury. There is something about a good, well seasoned-salad with the right balance of flavours that makes me very happy.

The Pla lard prick
The Pla lard prick

Next came the appetizers which included a Thai street-favourite—Krapow, made of crispy tofu. A classic prawn salt and pepper seasoned to perfection came next. Then I tasted a Thai classic which also became my favourite –  the Pla lard prick. It’s crispy red snapper with basil and chillies, enveloped by a sweet tangy sauce without making the fish sqidgy. However, the chicken satay was a bit of a let down.

Curry laksa with veggies and tofu
Curry laksa with veggies and tofu

Two different soups followed. The Koong tom som, a clear aromatic soup with lemon grass, galangal, kafir lime, fresh turmeric, thai chillies and prawns was the clear winner, thanks to my love for all things spicy. The heat of the chillies was perfectly balanced by the tanginess of the kafir lime and the earthy flavor of the fresh turmeric. The fiery Curry laksa with tofu and vegetables, a slightly thicker broth, was a blend of sour and hot, of course with the coconut milk cutting through the spiciness very, very subtly.

Stir-fried beans with water chestnut and bamboo shoot
Stir-fried beans with water chestnut and bamboo shoot

A small-eater that I am, I felt slighty intimidated when the main course was set on the table. There was so much variety! Wok tossed beans with bamboo shoot and water chestnut, steamed salmon in a clear garlic gravy, schezwan chicken, wok tossed lamb, mee goreng with vegetables, jasmine steamed rice, vegetarian Penang curry and phad Thai noodles with chicken. Phew! I started with the greens . The beans were crunchy and the subtle flavours of sesame went very well the fresh bamboo shoot. The wok-tossed lamb was slightly dry but I loved the flavours of cumin and coriander in it. The vegetarian Penang curry was ordinary and so was the schezwan chicken. Salmon in a gravy was a first personally but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. The pad Thai noodles with chicken was a definite hit.

Pad Thai noodles with chicken
Pad Thai noodles with chicken

The feast ended with a lovely coconut ice-cream that was made in-house served with crispy apple fritters and a cup of refreshing jasmine tea.