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.