Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sala Rim Naam at The Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

Set on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River across from the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Sala Rim Naam is the setting for gourmet Thai cuisine and classical Thai dance performed by elaborately costumed dancers from Bangkok's Department of Fine Arts. A unique culinary and cultural experience, the one hour show includes royal dances of the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods, as well as traditional folk dances and mock battle scenes from popular Thai folklore. Housed in a lavishly decorated pavilion reminiscent of richly decorated 'sala' from Northern Thailand, Sala Rim Naam features a dramatic sweeping roof with high pitched ceilings and polished teakwood finishings. Mandarin Oriental Bangkok Executive Thai Chef Vichit Mukura’s authentic Thai menu includes sumptuous Thai dishes such as Lon Poo Talay, sea crab meat cooked in coconut milk, Yaam Talay, a spiced seafood salad, Goong Phad Prik Daeng, fried prawn with garlic and red chili sauce, and Massamun Nuea, a southern-style beef curry with sweet potato and onion.

To reach Sala Rim Naam, guests are ferried across the Chao Phraya River by private teakwood shuttle boat from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, but a cocktail at the Oriental's legendary Bamboo Bar, is a fine way to start and end an evening in Bangkok. Originally opened in a tiny room in the hotel’s renowned Authors’ Wing in 1953, the Bamboo was refreshed, remixed and reinvented in 2014 by Thai designers, P49 Design. The bar’s original black rattan armchairs have been restored and tiger skin prints have been retained on the bar stools and some chairs. Hanging on the wall are historic photographs of the hotel and bar, with images of former patrons, such as Louis Armstrong, Mick Jagger, and Audrey Hepburn. The famous 'Thaijito' and other Bamboo Bar signature cocktail, created by the bar’s legendary barman Sompong Boonsri, remain on the cocktail menu, along with the classics that are still mixed according to their original recipes, and the bar continues to be inspired by its longstanding reputation of being the best live jazz spot in Bangkok.

The Bamboo Bar at The Mandarin Oriental — a Bangkok icon

The Bartender mixing our cocktails with great flourish and a smile


French 75

Embroidered Bamboo Bar linen napkins - an elegant touch to an elegant bar

Bar snacks: crispy fried okra and salted Thai peanuts

Jazz vocalist Cynthia Utterbach at the Bamboo bar

Jazz musicians Marat Yuldybaev on sax, and Igor Suchkov on piano

Private launch from the Mandarin Oriental over the Chao Phraya to Sala Rim Naam for dinner

View to Sala Rim Naam across the Chao Phraya River

On the boat approaching Sala Rim Naam

The exterior of Sala Rim Naam

A bowl of fresh Thai orchids on our table

Sala Rim Naam menu

A Hendricks Martini to start the evening at Sala Rim Naam

One of the musicians playing a Ranet Ek, an Thai-style boat-shaped alto xylophone made of rosewood

Thai appetizers: Pineapple with minced chicken and peanuts; deep-fried herbed crabmeat and minced chicken; and steamed prawns wrapped in rice noodles

The deep-fried crabmeat and minced chicken stuffed in a crab shell

Steamed prawns with fresh salad and chill lime sauce wrapped in rice noodles and served in bamboo basket

Monsoon Valley Thai red Shiraz

A glass of Thai red wine, which is actually very good

Monsoon Valley Colombard white wine

The white white was served in a chilled glass to keep the wine very cool

Herbed pomelo salad with grilled blue river prawn

Baked Sea Bass and herbs with a cone of steamed Thai Jasmin rice

Green Pork Thai Curry in coconut milk

Stir-Fried vegetables with oyster sauce

Trio of desserts: Water Chestnut Rubies in chilled coconut milk; Rambutan Sorbet; and Carved tropical fresh fruit

Beautifully carved fresh fruit

The evenings dance performance was introduced by a beautiful Thai lady who explained each of the dance and performance pieces

Thai musicians serenade each of dances and performances and played throughout the evening

Suwannamalee dancer, representing a legendary Thai woman whose beauty sets her apart from others like a golden flower

Exquisite costumes and classic Thai dance hand gestures are part of traditional Thai performance

The Phrang Pra Theep Candle Dance, a classic Lanna kingdom performance which uses fire to worship holy objects

A masked dance featuring Rama in search of a golden deer to give his beloved

Rama capturing the golden deer

Tossakan disguised as a hermit

Mareed, Tossakan's uncle, with gorgeous costume and head dress

Catching the launch back to the Mandarin Oiriental

Strands oh twinkle lights hang from the trees outside of Sala Rim Naam

Twinkle lights decorate the planters around the terrace dining area 

Egg Noodles in Chicken Curry Sauce
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

Curry paste:
1 tsp coriander seeds, dry-roasted
1 tsp cumin seeds, dry-roasted
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 cup of dried red chilis, seeded, cut, and soaked
1/2 tbsp of lemon grass, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp kaffir lime zest
1 tbsp galangal, sliced
1 tsp coriander roots, chopped
2 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp shrimp paste, wrapped in banana leaf and grilled

Chicken curry:
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/3 cup water
2 3/4 cups coconut milk
1/4 galangal, crushed
1 tbsp coriander roots, crushed
2 tbsp shallots, crushed
1/2 tsp kuruma powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder 
1/2 tsp curry powder
3 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar
1 1/4 cup chicken thighs, sliced
1 1/2 cup egg noodles, boiled

To make the paste, pound the spices until fine. Add the chilis, lemon grass, kaffir lime zest, galangal and coriander roots. Continue to pound until smooth and well-mixed. Add the garlic and shallots, pounding until a fine and smooth paste forms. Add the shrimp paste and pound until thoroughly incorporated. Set aside, but only use one tablespoon of the paste for this recipe.

Combine the coconut cream and water in a wok and reduce over medium heat. Stir well until oil surfaces. Add the red curry paste and stir fry until aromatic. Add the coconut milk, galangal, coriander roots, and shallots. Bring to a boil, then add the kuruma, turmeric, and curry powders. Flavour with fish sauce and palm sugar, then add the chicken to simmer for about 10 minutes or until just tender. Remove from heat and discard the galangal and coriander roots. In a serving bowl, pour the soup over cooked egg noodles and serve with the following accompaniments: crisp-fried egg noodles, crisp fried pork scratchings, preserved mustard greens, shallots, fried chili paste and lime juice.

Spicy Grilled Beef & Grape Salad
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

10 oz sirloin strip steak
2-3 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup small seedless red grapes, halved
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed
4 stems mint leaves, reserving sprigs for garnish
3-4 kaffir lime leaves
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbsp fresh bird's eye chilies, to taste 
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp simple syrup

Coat both sides of the steak with the vegetable oil and grill over charcoal or in a grill pan to desired doneness, then keep the steak covered. Slice the lemongrass as thinly as possible, starting from the root end and stopping when the purple rings disappear at about 2 inches from the base; set aside. Remove the centre veins from the kaffir lime leaves. Stack the leaves together, roll them up tightly, and slice them slightly on the diagonal as thinly as possible, then set aside. 

Remove the mint leaves from the stems, reserving the sprigs for garnish, and slice the leaves crosswise into 1/8-inch strips; set aside. Reserve the stems. Trim off the tough bottom parts of the reserved mint stems, and finely slice crosswise. Place the mint stems, garlic, and chilies in a mortar or mini-chopper; grind to a fine paste. In a small bowl, mix together the fish sauce, lime juice, and simple syrup. Add the prepared paste; stir to mix. Slice the steak thinly against the grain into bite-sized pieces; transfer to a mixing bowl.

Add the prepared herbs, grapes and half of the prepared dressing to the steak bowl, and toss to coat. Add more dressing if desired. The salad should be spicy, equally salty, sour, and sweet. If the salad is to be served in the traditional Thai way, with rice as an accompaniment, the salad should be dressed a little more, in anticipation of the rice. Serve on a decorative platter.