Thailand is not only about its beaches but also mountains and rivers. Similarly, its cuisine goes much beyond pad thai, tom yam soup or som tam salad, I discovered as I settled down to a especially curated meal at Vintage Asia, the signature Asian restaurant of JW Marriott Kolkata.
Chef Samart Muesantat from Sheraton Samui Resort, Koh Samui, is the guiding force behind the Taste of Thailand Food Festival. “Thai cuisine is more about a balance of different flavours, such as sour, sweet, salty and spicy,” said Chef Samart.
Our culinary journey began from the north of Thailand known for its mountains and relatively cooler climate. Hence salads made from a variety of local ingredients are popular here. We sampled two different kinds of mixed mushroom salads Lah Had Thod and Lab Had. To my Bengali palate, the latter – with its mint, lime and chilli dressing – was more enjoyable. Larb Ped Yang, another salad dish from the north, contained slivers of roasted duck tossed with herbs, dried chilli, lime and roasted ground nuts, which as another diner said reminded her of the sprouted grams chat sold on Kolkata’s streets. The bland Grilled Tofu Salad served with peanut sauce, essentially from central Thailand, was more of a palate cleanser, easing us into the next course, Tom Jued Tao Hoo Sa-rai. This soup, also from Central Thailand, was a perfect serve for the day – the city was being lashed by a heavy downpour since the night before. The piping hot clear soup, containing tofu, seaweed and vegetables, was a ‘feel good’ potion indeed.
For the mains, Chef Samart relied more on central and southern dishes. I had to wave away the Goong Phad Med Ma Muang because it contained prawns but I could see my fellow diners digging into it with enthusiasm. The cashew nut chilli oyster sauce added a fine tanginess to the dish, they said. To my delight, Pla Thod Deep, consisted of fried fish with basil and sweet chilli sauce. The thin deep fried coat gave way to soft white flesh inside. The Choo Chee Tofu Had Rum, from the central region, was essentially deep fried tofu served with mushroom in choo chee curry paste. This curry paste, actually a base for seafood, is made from dried red chillies and a strong aromatic ingredient. But our dish contained dried red curry made smooth and silky with the addition of coconut cream and with Kaffir Lime leaves for the aroma. We were served sticky rice to go with it. However Chef Samart was a wee bit concerned about the spice quotient and came out to inquire if we were okay with the dish.
A look at the menu card for the festival revealed that guests will have a lot more to choose from.
From the northern region, guests can choose from Laab Gai (spicy chicken salad, mint, lime, chili, Larb Ped Yang (roasted duck tossed, toasted ground rice, herbs, dried chili, lime) from salads; Lab Moo (BBQ pork salad with mint, lime and chili) from appetizers; Hoy Thod (deep fried mussel, taro, and long bean chili sauce) from the main course and Gaeng Phed Ped Yang (Red curry, roasted duck, green apple) from curries.
Coming to the central region, on offer will be Yum Moo Yang (grilled pork salad, cucumber, tomato, chili, lime dressing) among salads; ‘Tom Kha Tofu Had Rum (Tofu, mushrooms, coconut soup) and Tom Yum Goong (Prawn soup, mushroom, Thai herb, kaffir lime leaves) from soups; Phad Thai Goong (stir-fried Thai rice noodle, prawns, egg, dried shrimp) from the stir-fry section, Choo Chee Pla (deep fried fish, dried red curry, kaffir lime leaves, coconut cream) from the main course and Gaeng Karee Pak (Thai yellow curry, vegetables) from the curries.
Taking a trip down South, there will be Yum Tur Pu (wing bean salad, dry toasted coconut) from salads, Po Pia Tod (deep fried vegetables, seaweed, glass noodles spring roll) from appetizers; Goong Phad Med Ma Muang (stir-fried prawns, cashew nuts chili oyster sauce) from the stir-fry section; and Gai Yang Ka Min (marinated chicken with turmeric soya sauce Thai herb) from the main course.
Coming back to our meal, just as I getting overwhelmed by the partiality to tofu as a key ingredient, the dessert arrived. Sakoo Mapraw Om or ‘sweet tapioca in young coconut’. Tapioca pearls in a white liquid and topped with fresh fruits, was good to taste, with a distant, a very distant reminder mind you, of what Bengalis call ‘sabur payesh’. Or, you may end dinner with a signature dessert named Tub Tim Krob (water chestnut, red sweet syrup, crushed ice).
Where: Taste of Thailand Food Festival at Vintage Asia, JW Marriott Kolkata - 4A, J.B.S Haldane Avenue, Kolkata – 700 105
When: until Sep 16. Timing: Dinner (all days) - 7pm to 11.45pm; Lunch (Saturday) – 12.30 pm to 3pm; Brunch (Sunday, Set Menu) – 12.30pm to 3.30pm
Pocket pinch: A la carte at ₹ 3,000 ++ for two; set menu at Rs 1,999 (all inclusive) per person.
Reservations: +91 33 6633 0000