Food Bytes: A Royal Thai Repast By Master Chef, Paithoon Pan Phan At The Lalit, Mumbai

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Live station cookingNever mind the socio-political unrest that the Thai capital of Bangkok is in the throes of at the moment, with agitations and demonstrations making headlines the world over. For all seems hunky dory as far as the delectable cuisine of the land is concerned, if the guys at The Lalit, Mumbai will have us believe! With their ongoing Thai Food Festival at the hotel’s 24X7 restaurant, they hope to take us on a vicarious culinary ride through the sweet-sour-salty sensations that truly define this mouth-puckering good cuisine.
Chef Paithoon, The Lalit
Chef Paithoon, The Lalit
Greeted by a pair of hostesses togged out in rather un-Thai, Singapore Airlines-esque Malay sarong kebayas, we are ushered to our seats to enjoy a lunch personally supervised by the hotel group’s Thai Master Chef, Paithoon Pan Phan, who we were told was ‘on loan’ from The Lalit, Bangalore. Our first taste of the land that put the oxymoronic phrase “same-same, but different…” onto the traveller’s lexicon, is a yummy welcome libation of a mixed fruit juice steeped with kaffir lime leaves, kha (Thai ginger) and an innocuous-looking but deadly tiny red bird eye chilli. We loved it so much that we quickly downed our first and called for a second serving of the nectar with a spicy kick. DSC_7939Next we were served a range of appetizers that took on the form of a light and flaky Basa Fish Satay marinated in galangal and basil and served with a peanut sauce, the green curry paste coated Skewered Chicken, crispy veg Spring Rolls and basil and chilli scented Batter-fried Prawns that I felt were a tad too cold. It was only when Chef Paithoon had me know that that was how it was supposed to be served as part of a cold salad, did I shut up and let the expert take us through his creations. DSC_7969“We Thai people love the combinations of sweet-sour-salty in our food and so we use a lot of palm sugar, lime juice and nam pla (fish sauce) to flavour our dishes,” said Chef Paithoon, who added that in his opinion the Indian palate is not very accustomed to the distinct taste of fish sauce, which is why he substitutes it with a thick, salty soy sauce in his creations. But even a die-hard Thai food aficionado like me couldn’t tell the difference as I tried the sublime Green Chicken Curry with pea aubergines and bamboo shoots. Teamed with simple steamed Jasmine Rice, this was the height of simplicity yet with ample displays of class. My only grouse with the curry were the rather clumsily and inconsistently chopped bamboo shoots with some small and some humungous pieces floating in the gravy. DSC_7973Also not up to the mark was the Pork with Fungus Mushrooms and Ginger. Rubbery pieces of pork and matchstick sized strips of ginger instead of delicate juliennes marred this one, whose only saving grace was the oyster sauce and the fluffy fungus mushrooms. But the subtly sweet notes of the Steamed Fish in a tomato-based sauce, the Veg Phad Thai Noodles and Spicy Fried Rice speckled with burnt garlic and chilli, more than made up for the pork dish’s disappointment. Also irresistible was the ingenious salad served in a tiny saucer of a piece of Pok Choi cabbage stuffed with basil-scented Chicken Mousse accompanied by tiny jellied globules of Oyster Sauce. Criminally encore-worthy, that! IMG-20140117-00441And while the dessert section of the buffet literally groaned under the weight of non-Thai afters like a superb White Chocolate and Apricot Pudding, Mixed Fruit Rabdi and Crème Brulee, the sole Thai representative was a subtle Kaffir Lime flavoured Cheesecake that sealed the deal with a smile. And while we missed our other Thai favourites like the water chestnut dessert aka Tob Tim Grob and grilled Bangkok street-style Bananas with Treacle, Chef Paithoon was quick to let us know that the Thai buffet menu was a rotational one with each day and night offering something new and different. “That should get you back here for dinner perhaps!” says the smiling chef with a twinkle in his eyes. And we have every intention of taking his offer up… Where: 24X7, The Lalit, Sahar Airport Road, Andheri (east). Call, 022 66992222. When: The Thai Food Festival is on for both lunch and dinner till the 31st of January. How much: The lunch buffet is Rs 1,499 plus taxes and the dinner buffet is Rs 1,699 plus taxes per person, without alcohol. We were invited by The Lalit, Mumbai for this Thai Food Festival lunch. Pics courtesy: The Lalit, Mumbai and Raul Dias

Raul Dias

Raul Dias
Lists travel, food and luxury as the tantalizing trifecta that defines him. When he’s not travelling, eating or getting pampered at a spa, you'll find him assaulting his notebook's keyboard with a feral vengeance, churning out what he hopes are intelligent, informative and entertaining stories.