The Mandarin Oriental is known for its wonderful accommodations and even more wonderful cuisine. A couple of months ago, I got to witness the creation of this cuisine firsthand when I attended the hotel's Thai Kitchen 2009, an interactive cooking class with Chef Anchalee Luadkham of the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
We were a class of about fifteen people, all huddled around the makeshift kitchen set up in the middle of the Tivoli Grill. Chef Anchalee taught us three Thai dishes. An appetizer - Yam Nue Yang A-Ngun, spicy beef salad with grapes and mint dressing; a main course – Panang Goong, red prawn curry; and a dessert – Tub Tim Krob, chilled water chestnuts rubies in sweet coconut milk.
It was fun watching Chef Anchalee, who, at 26, is also a faculty member at the Mandarin culinary school (as well as being a sous chef in the hotel's Thai restaurant) in Chiang Mai, demonstrate her skill. She worked fast and with a smile, her Thai staff skillfully assisting her, without her having to tell them to do so.
What was more fun was learning some secrets of Thai cooking. “You have to get all ingredients ready before cook,” Chef Anchalee suggests.
One secret I learned was how to get really good curry. What Chef Anchalee did was heat (stirring constantly) a ladle-ful of coconut milk (gata) in a wok until it reduced and was mostly oil. It was this oil she used to fry the curry paste. The technique may be slow and time-consuming, but it made a big difference. The resulting curry was more flavorful and had more depth to it. It was also somehow more filling.
Another secret that I discovered (one that I had been wondering about ever since I was a child) was what the glutinous exterior of the Tub Tim Krob was prepared. I have always been fond of dessert, and it was wonderful to finally find out how to make it (I'm too lazy to surf for it – besides, having a Thai Chef prepare it in front of me is proof that the recipe is authentic).
“I think that Filipino and Thai cooking are similar, in that they can have a lot of ingredients, but take a short time to cook, like curry,” Chef Anchalee says.
When asked what her tip for cooking Thai well was, she answered, “My tip is smiling. Good mood is good taste.”
TUB TIM KROB
chilled water chestnuts rubies in sweet coconut milk
(serves one - why share?)
TAPIOCA WATER CHESTNUT
7 – 10 pcs water chestnut (fresh or canned)
2 tbsp red food color
3 tbsp tapoica flour (magic powder)
½ cup coconut milk
3 tbsp sugar
1 pc pandan leaf
1 pinch salt
½ cup crushed ice
1. Heat coconut milk in a saucepan. Add sugar, salt and pandan leaves. Mix well and set aside.
2.Dice water chestnuts. Place in a bowl, add red food color and leave for 1-2 minutes. Drain excess food color.
3.Mix chestnuts with the tapoica flour. Make sure that chestnuts are evenly coated.
4.Shake off excess flour and drop water chestnuts in hot water until the flour coating solidifies into a red gel covering, then place in cold water.
5.Place water chestnuts in a serving bowl. Top with crushed ice and milk (remove pandan leaf first). Garnish with jackfruit and coconut meat if desired.