Thursday, December 31, 2015

Terraces Italian Cuisine at Four Seasons Chiang Mai

Nestled in a traditional northern Thai Lanna-style pavilion with sweeping views of the Mae Rim Valley, Terraces at the Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai, offers a stunning open air setting overlooking the surrounding rice paddies and distant Doi Suthep mountain range. Featuring Italian and International cuisine inspired by the region's abundant natural produce, Terraces showcases dishes from Asia and beyond, with a menu guided by authentic flavours and exceptional ingredients, from local natural produce such as wild Morning Glory, Chiang Mai Pork Sausage and local Soft Shelled Crab to imported Australian 'Darling Down' Wagyu Beef, as well as an extensive menu of classic Italian favourites from antipasti such as Fritto Misto with with Calamari, Prawn, Cod and Soft Shell Crab, to crisp wood fired pizzas and traditional pastas like Fusili Arrabbiata, Rigatoni Bolognese and Asian-fusion Spaghetti Tom Yum with seafood. At night, you can hear the chorus of toads croaking from the rice paddies, or if you're fortunate enough, witness the 'Yi Peng' Lantern Festival, part of the festival of lights in Northern Thailand that shows respect to Buddha, where illuminated paper lanterns are launched into the night sky by local villagers. It's believed that launching a lantern will send a person’s bad luck and misfortune away into the air, especially if it disappears from view before the fire goes out, however just being at the Four Seasons Chiang Mai, was blessing enough for us!

An arrangement of floating lotus

A cold towel wrapped in the same of a lotus with an orchid nestled on top

Terraces Italian themed menu

Warm rosemary-infused bread and grissini with roasted garlic and olive oil

Thai white wine from the Monsoon Valley

Fritto Misto with Calamari, Prawn, Cod, Soft Shell Crab, Artichoke, Spicy Mayo and Nam Jim Jaew

Tuna Tartare with Lobster, Avocado, Chives, Kaffir Leaves, Dijon Mustard and Lime Juice

Fusilli with Semi Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Shallots and Green Spinach Pesto

Squid Ink Angel Hair Pasta with Crab, Prawns, Broccolini and Garlic Cream

Lanterns floating in the night sky as part of the Yi Peng' Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai

Kaffir Lime Scones
Makes 24 scones
Recipe courtesy of Four Seasons, Chiang Mai, Thailand

2 cups bread flour
2 large egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups butter
1 3/4 tbsp baking powder
7 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
3 Kaffir lime leaves

Mix the bread flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl. Pour in milk, eggs and vanilla paste and stir until mixed well. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead it gently. Pat the dough flat until 1/2 to 1-inch thick. Using a round 2-inch cutter, cut out 24 circles from the dough. Brush the tops with egg yolk and bake for 20 mins at 355°F, until lightly golden on top. Serve warm with clotted cream and jam.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Nahm: Chef Thompson's Temple to Thai Gastronomy

One of the finest Thai restaurants in the world, Nahm is a veritable temple to Thai gastronomy thanks to David Thompson and head chef Prin Polsuk’s stellar cooking and forensic attention to culinary detail. The Australian-born chef-restaurateur, who has lived in Bangkok for over 20 years studying the complexities of Thai cuisine, takes an almost obsessive approach to authenticity. His outlook is both retrospective, having studied century-old cookbooks of long-departed Thai matriarchs, and forward-thinking, with some dishes influenced by vibrant local street-food. Fluent in both written and spoken Thai, Chef Thompson has authored two comprehensive and authoritative books on Thai cuisine — Thai Food, and Thai Street Food — and is widely acclaimed as the world’s foremost practitioner of Thailand's beguilingly multi-faceted cuisine. His dishes demonstrate Thompson’s keen understanding of the balance of salt, spice, sweet and sour, as well as the fermented and smoky notes in Thai cooking, with a wide-ranging menu that includes light and creative starters such as Smoked Fish, Peanut and Tapioca Dumplings; Salad of Freshwater Crayfish with Pork and Asian Pennywort, as well as previously extinct dishes with exotic descriptions such as Smoked Fish Curry with Prawns, Chicken livers, Cockles, Chillies and Black Pepper. The desserts, created by David's partner of over 25 years Tanongsak Yordwai, are equally beguiling, such as the outstanding Lod Chong, jasmine infused sweet coconut milk served icy cold with pandan-flavoured green noodles, black sticky rice, fresh longans, papaya, water chestnuts, caramelised taro and corn.

The interior, designed by Japanese architect Koichiro Ikebuchi, is cool and elegant with tapered stepped rusty-red Laterite brick columns inspired from the temples of the ancient Thai city of Ayutthaya, punctuated with soaring vases of vibrant purple orchids set against a backdrop of gold leaf walls, hand carved wooden screens and Thai silk upholstery. The tableware also has its role with a selection of bowls and handpicked celadon plates from local manufacturers, the variety in shape and size intended to reflect the diversity of the textures and flavours of the food. The service is impeccable, the food flawless and fabulous, the interior seductively serene. A shining example of superb Thai cuisine, Nahm should absolutely be on any galloping gastronome’s list of must-visit culinary destinations.

Chef David Thompson

The contemporary, understated elegance of Nahm with prominent stepped-red brick columns inspired from the temples of the ancient Thai city of Ayutthaya

Naha's menu draws influence from the spectrum of Thai cooking — from the opulent gastronomy of the palaces through to the dishes of the street

A plump and perfect purple orchid sits proudly on our table

Two glasses of Prosecco, a bubbly beginning to our evening at Nahm

'Ma Hor' - An amuse-bouche of minced pork, shrimp, palm sugar, tamarind and peanuts sitting on a triangle of fresh Thai pineapple

Our first canapé - egg nets with prawns, wild almonds and kaffir lime

A uniquely creative presentation and absolutely delicious

Our second canapé — blue swimmer crab with peanuts and pickled garlic on rice cakes

An exquisite combination of flavour, texture and presentation

Clear soup of roast duck with thai basil and young coconut

Chiang Mai river prawns, crunchy pork crackling and steamed vegetables

Chiang Mai grilled chili relish accompanied the dish above

Salad of fresh Thai river prawns with pork and Asian pennywort

Stir-fried wagyu beef with charred onions, oyster sauce and thai basil
- Without a doubt the best beef I've ever had -

Smoked fish curry with prawns, chicken livers, cockles chillies and black pepper

‘Lod chong’ - sweet jasmine infused coconut milk served icy cold with green noodles flavoured with pandanus leaves, black sticky rice, fresh longans, papaya, water chestnuts, caramelised taro and corn - one of the most unusual desserts I've ever tasted — lightly sweet with a symphony of flavours and textures — and absolutely delicious!

Fresh Mangosteen and a banana leaf wrapped dessert with a bottom layer of tapioca and water chestnut topped with coconut custard

Spectacular floral arrangements of lush purple orchids lined the gold hued walls of Nahm

Considered "the bible" of Thai cuisine, Chef David Thompson's cookbook 'Thai Food' gives the most comprehensive account of this ancient and exotic cuisine ever published in English. In it, Chef Thompson shares his passion for this unique style of cooking that he believes to be one of the world's greatest cuisines. Providing over 300 mouthwatering recipes, from the simple, honest flavour of a classic pad thai or the refreshing tang of a Green Papaya Salad to such elaborate creations as Green Curry of Trout Dumplings with Apple Eggplants or Stir-fried Crispy Fish Cakes with Pork and Salted Eggs, Chef Thompson also provides a series of fascinating introductory chapters examining the role of food in Thai culture and society, offering guidance on ingredients, with notes on availability and substitutions, and explaining the essential techniques of Thai cookery. Beautifully written, and complimented by superb photography, this cookbook captures all aspects of Thailand's diverse culinary culture — a copy of which has been proudly added to my ever-expanding culinary library.

Chef David Thompson's Thai food bible — 'Thai Food' by David Thompson 

Southern Coconut Curry of Mud Crab
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef David Thompson - Nahm

1 mud crab
240ml stock, water or coconut milk
pinch of salt
pinch of palm sugar
Lemongrass stalks, bruised
3 slices galangal
Kaffir lime leaves, torn
120ml coconut cream
2 tbsp southern style yellow curry paste
pinch of palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
vinegar, to taste
Kalamasi lime juice, to taste
2 tbsp coconut cream
5 Kaffir lime leaves, shredded
2 scud chillies, coarsely bruised
2 tbsp thick coconut cream, fresh

Clean the crab and remove the cap and tail. Take out the roe, tomalley and mustard, then purée, pass through a sieve and refrigerate wrapped in plastic. Segment the crab meat, scrub clean and set aside. Place the stock in a pot along with the salt, palm sugar, lemongrass stalks, galangal slices and kaffir lime leaves. Add the crab meat and simmer until cooked. Remove and allow to cool before carefully removing the meat from the shell in as large pieces as possible. Set the meat aside and pass the stock through a sieve. Bring the stock back to the boil, add the coconut cream then simmer for a minute. Work in the curry paste and simmer for a minute or so before adding the prepared roe, tomalley and mustard purée. Set aside until required.

Season the stock the palm sugar, fish sauce, vinegar and kalamasi juice then continue to simmer gently until rich, creamy and slightly thick. Pour into a bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for at least 30 minutes, which will allow the curry to develop in taste. Just before serving, add the additional coconut cream to the curry, re-season with fish sauce, sugar and citrus. Stir in the crab meat. It should taste hot, salty, rich and creamy with a lingering length of taste. Stir in some of the shredded kaffir lime leaves and bruised scud chillis. Fold in the fresh coconut cream and Garnish with any remaining kaffir lime leaves.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Rang Mahal: The Best Indian Cuisine in Bangkok

Perched on the top floor of the Rembrandt Hotel with spectacular views over Bangkok, Rang Mahal is considered by many to be the best Indian restaurant in the city, specializing in authentic Northern Indian cuisine as it was once prepared in the Mughal courts, with dishes characterized by the use of rich ingredients such as expensive dried fruits and nuts, nut pastes, saffron, fragrant spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and lots of heavy cream and yogurt. Rang Mahal means ‘palace of colours’ and there is definitely a courtly air about the restaurant, including a group of Indian musicians who fill the air each night with old Hindi songs and ghazals. With elegant finishings and dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows along the length of the restaurant, we were seated at one of the tables described as the "Honeymoon Table", located where two seamless windows form a corner with a view that is probably the most spectacular offered at any restaurant in Bangkok. The epitome of fine Indian cuisine, Rang Mahal was outstanding from start to finish, and among the best meals we enjoyed throughout our travels. 

The embossed regally red Rang Mahal menu features North Indian cuisine 

A Hendricks dry martini with olives 

Wrapped in a starched linen napkin in a filagree silver basket the papadam were warm, 
delicate and wafer thin 

A trio of condiments for the papadam: coriander many chutney, pickled baby onions and candied mango

The "Honeymoon Table" at Rang Mahal is located where two seamless windows form a corner,
 with a view that is probably the most spectacular offered at any restaurant in Bangkok

Punjabi Samosa - deep fried puff pastry stuffed with potatoes and green peas

Tamarind sauce for the samosa

Paneer Tikka

Monsoon Valley Thai white wine blended from Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Malaga Blanc grapes

Monsoon Valley blended red wine is a made from Shiraz and indigenous Thai Pokdum grapes

 'Lahsooni Naan' with garlic

Absolutely exquisite 'Dal Marang Mahal' - black lentils cooked with asafoetida, garlic and tomatoes, simmered overnight on a charcoal fire, enriched with butter and cream; and in the background 'Baingan Bharta' - minced eggplant combined with onions, tomatoes and chilies

Cucumber Raita

Mutton Vindaloo

'Murgh Makhanwala' - succulent chicken simmered in a creamy fenugreek flavoured tomato gravy

Saffron Pulao with caramelized onions

Our Indian feast at 'The Honeymoon Table': Murgh Yikka Masala, Mutton Vindaloo, Baingan Bharta, Dal Marang Mahaland Naan

The finest Indian cuisine we enjoyed in Bangkok and the best we've had aside from the Suvarna Mahal at the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur India

A silver water bowl of lime-scented hot water and white napkin

Frozen chocolates arrive on a dome covered silver tureen of dry ice, and once at the table the dome is removed and pillowy clouds of dry ice flow across the table — stunning!

A quartet of Indian musicians perform each night playing old Hindi songs and ghazals

The lady singer dressed in a beautiful sari, sang throughout the evening

Chef Rajan Misra, Head Indian Chef at Rang Mahal Bangkok

One of Chef Misra's signature recipes — Tandoori Murgh — marinated in yoghurt and oriental spices and cooked in a Tandoor

Tandoori Prawns
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy Chef Rajan Misra, Rang Mahal Bangkok

4 colossal prawns, about 10-12 per pound
5 g ajwain
10 ml cream
15 g garlic
15 g ginger
10 ml lemon juice
60 g yogurt
10 g yellow chili
3 g turmeric powder
5 g garam masala 
5 g salt
10 g butter or ghee, melted
5 g vegetable oil
5 g chat masala

Peel the prawns, leaving the tail on, devein and wash. Sprinkle with half of the lemon juice, salt and ajwain and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Prepare the marinade with the remaining ingredients except the remains lemon juice, butter and chat masala. Cover the prawns with the marinade then cover and chill for 3 hours. Thread a wooden skewer through each prawn from head to tail to prevent them from curling while cooking. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 10-15 minutes until the prawns are golden and just cooked through. To serve, remove the skewers and arrange the prawns on a decorative platter and sprinkle with the remaining lemon juice, melted ghee and chat masala.