Thursday, June 1, 2017

Culinary Delight In Thailand- Experiencing Thai Cuisine The Local Way!

For most of us, Thai food is usually limited to Tom Yum Soup and Thai Curry but this trip of ours to Thailand provided us some amazing opportunities to try this much sought after Asian cuisine in true authentic style that an exclusive post dedicated to Thai cuisine is the least that we could do. Our experiences were unique and memorable starting with a lavish spread of meal served in a wooden tray in Northern Thailand style along with a cultural performance in Chiang Mai to having the best crab meat and grilled prawns on a cruise boat while exploring the islands of Phuket in Southern Thailand. The capital city Bangkok, treated us to a puppet show while we enjoyed our dinner and pub hopping to taste local beer.

Apart from the traditional meals, we took Thai cooking lessons. Thailand is known for its street food with a wide variety of meat being served as delicacies including grasshopper, silk worms and many more. Not being that adventurous, we enjoyed our share of street food by digging into parathas and fried egg served with chicken curry and that too for breakfast. One of the most heaviest breakfast that we had. Plus to beat the heat, we had fresh and chilled coconut water and mango shake from the many roadside carts and dug into all natural coconut ice cream.

Our stint with Thai cuisine started on board our AirAsia flight from Chennai to Chiang Mai where we were served Thai food, providing a glimpse of Thailand even before touch down. The first dish was Exotic Mango with sticky rice. Sticky rice, widely consumed across Thailand, is sweet flavored rice and the mango was extremely juicy, fresh and sweet thus honoring the operative word 'Exotic.' Then we had green chicken curry with rice and stir fried mushroom with basil. The chicken curry was very mild but flavorful with coconut milk and shrimp paste as base and lemon grass, egg plant, basil and coriander adding flavors to the curry. The curry was served with piping hot steamed rice. The stir friend mushroom with basil was served with brown rice, a very healthy dish with not too many flavors. Overall it was a wholesome and healthy meal giving an authentic taste of Thai cuisine.

On reaching Chiang Mai, we started our food trail with a very healthy lunch at 'The Salad Concept' on Nimman road. Two young sisters run the show here who believe in the power of healthy eating. Their interest in healthy cuisine began when their father was recovering from cancer. He wanted to try alternative treatments as well and read about Gerson Therapy. The Gerson Therapy is a natural treatment that allows the body to heal itself by following an organic and natural diet of fresh vegetables and raw juices. Looking at his progress, the sisters decided to start serving the same type of food in their city.

The place offers extensive fresh salads and wraps and caters to our creative side. We can order salads and wraps per our preferences. We had ordered a fresh fruit salad from a la carte and a tailor made salad that included grilled mushrooms, bell pepper, cucumber and lettuce accompanied with a green chilies dressing. All fruits and vegetables were very fresh and tasted heavenly plus they have an equally exciting range of fresh fruit smoothies and shakes. We called for the most sought after mango and passion fruit smoothie and coconut shake. Needless to say they were lip smacking good. The staff was very courteous and their service very prompt. For such healthy and fresh food option, they were very economically priced and a hearty and heavy meal for two would cost around 500 to 600 Baht.

For dinner, we headed out for an authentic Thai Lanna dinner to 'Khum Khantoke,' dining with Khantoke or Toke which is a round rattan tray serving authentic Northern Thailand dishes. The traditional Thai food served on one big wooden table makes your family and friends come even closer and have a personal connect. This is an amazing place not only to enjoy Thai cuisine but also to experience lovely Thai culture. The dinner is accompanied by an extraordinary performance of young Thai men and women dressed in their traditional best showcasing their culture and folklore through classical music and dance. The performance covered tales from mythology, war, harvesting, ancient skill set and celebrations. It was a very lively performance performed with a lot of enthusiasm and passion.

At the entrance we were greeted by Thai women showcasing their exemplary skill set in music, fruit carving and flower making. The elaborate dinner comprised of clear soup, fresh salad with chilli paste, sticky rice, deep fried chicken, chicken curry with ginger, crispy deep fried tofu, stir fried veggies and minced chicken accompanied with rice. One could choose from other meat options as well. All inclusive Dinner is charged at 800 Baht per person.

One of our evenings was reserved for one of its kind of a lifetime experience. We signed up for a Thai cooking lesson at Basil Healthy Thai Cookery School. A very professional cooking school that gave us an insight into Thai food- basics, ingredients and showed us how simple yet healthy Thai cuisine is. The class was super fun and the chef was patient and guided us step by step to make our very own and authentic Tom Yum Chicken Soup and Thai Green Curry. He gave us tips on how to chop the vegetables with ease and how to make curry paste. We were introduced to ingredients like galangal and were surprised to know they did not add salt in their dish, instead they substituted it with fish sauce which provided the salty taste. We were taught how to make hand ground Thai masala which is relatively close to Indian cuisine. We hand grounded masala and spices the old school style instead of relying on electronic gadgets. To make sure that every individual has a brilliant experience, the sessions are limited to around 6- 7 individuals only. The whole cooking session is priced at 1000 Baht per person.

After the cooking session, we dined like one happy family and finished our sumptuous meal by relishing the King of Thai fruits "Durian" and Queen "Mangosteen." Durian is a very strong and creamy fruit and is an acquired taste while Mangosteen on the other hand is instantly likeable as it is a very sweet and juicy exotic fruit.

While in Chiang Mai, if you crave for Indian food, look no further than "Whole Earth restaurant" as they specialize in Indian and Thai cuisine. Their Thai chicken curry Massaman and pineapple chicken fried rice seemed to be the signature dish. They also offer an extensive range of vegetarian dishes. We ordered Naan, butter chicken and vegetable kofta that was just lip smacking and very Indian. A dinner for two would cost around 500 to 600 Baht. With this hearty dinner, we wrapped up our Chiang Mai leg of the trip and boarded our very comfortable two hour Air Asia flight to explore the beautiful white sandy beaches of Phuket.

On board, we were served lip smacking hot Japanese style salt and chilli Salmon with steamed rice and exotic mango with sticky rice. The Salmon was excellently cooked with the right amount of flavors and spice and melted in our mouth.

In Phuket, to relish local Thai food, we headed to "One Chun" restaurant. This historic two storey house converted to a restaurant has a vintage touch to it and serves amazing Southern Thai delicacies. The amazing retro restaurant has antique furniture, tons of collectibles- hand made wooden clocks and radios that adorn the walls painting a glorious picture. We ordered shrimp fry in tamarind sauce, crab meat with noodles, fish fried in eastern style, fish fried with onion, garlic and tamarind paste. The crab meat curry was excellent and spicy serving as perfect accompaniment to the super soft noodles. The fish was tender, juicy at the same time very spicy and flavorful and the best of seafood that we have had in Thailand. All of this was accompanied by potassium rich, natural tender coconut water. We finished our meal with coconut pudding, it was not too sweet nor too solidified with perfect consistency. A hearty meal for two costs around 700-800 Baht.

After exploring the beaches of Phuket, we were able to experience and enjoy a lavish and super delicious dinner on a cruise boat, thanks to Silver Hawk Group. The extremely talented chef and support staff had laid out a massive spread of Indian and Thai cuisine. Every dish was lip smacking but the table topper was the exceptionally well cooked Thai style crab meat and prawns. The crew were kind enough to break the shells and literally feed us and it just felt like home. The spicy chutney that accompanied the sea food was just out of the world. The lavish spread included soup, fried chicken, onion rings, spring roll, shrimps, massaman curry, steam rice, roti, dal and sweet banana thai desert. Needless to say all of this was accompanied by juicy fresh cut fruits. We enjoyed this magnanimous dinner with a sunset cruise on our way back to Phuket.

Bangkok was the last leg of our trip and we headed to Joe Louis Puppetry at Asiatique where we enjoyed our elaborate meal while watching a puppet show. It is a very interesting concept where the employees of the restaurant put up a traditional puppet show. The performance was mind blowing which we enjoyed with a traditional and lavish full course Thai meal. The meal is preset and serves some amazing and local Thai delicacies including the Tom Yum soup and Thai Green Curry.

Asiatique is an open air mall with dozens of restaurants, hotels and pubs and a night bazaar. There are many watering holes that could keep one happy high or tipsy either with their soothing live music or alcohol and we found Brick Bistro and Checkmate very good. The night bazaar has massive fruit stalls that serve a wide variety of desserts and exotic Thai fruits.

Thailand has a lot to offer and cater to every taste. The options are numerous and the experience is guaranteed to be one of a kind. Food truly is an integral part of Thai culture. They consider meals as a form of celebrations dining and sharing like one big happy family. They ensure that there are always more number of dishes on the table and do not believe in leftovers. Presentation is given equal importance with an array of fruit and vegetable carvings that can be seen in many parts of Thailand. No wonder, the cuisine is much sought after. Their values and their dining experience does add on to the taste of the food. In true sense, every meal is a feast!

Thailand Photo Blog.

DISCLAIMER- This trip was sponsored by Air Asia India and Tourism Authority of Thailand, Mumbai.

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