Some years ago, I took lessons at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok’s cooking school.
Located in a rustic cottage across the river from the hotel, the school regularly gives classes on how to concoct the exotic flavors that Thai dishes are known for—the spicy, the sweet, the sour and the salty harmonizing to create well-balanced, inexplicably delightful flavors.
The lessons were not only very informative, they turned out to be delicious as well (we got to eat what we cooked).
I was therefore delighted to learn that Mandarin Oriental, Manila has brought in chefs from Mandarin Bangkok for its ongoing food fest, “Tastes of Thailand.” Led by executive sous chef Sumet Sumpachanyanont, they are preparing daily buffets of Thai dishes for the hotel’s Paseo Uno restaurant.
The dishes include spicy mango salad with crab meat, red pork curry with sweet basil, steamed fish with chili lime sauce, roasted duck salad with celery, as well as the well-loved tom yaam goong (spicy prawn soup) and pad Thai (noodles with prawns and condiments).
I recognized one of the dishes in the buffet as being the same one I tasted in a Bangkok market during a not-so-recent visit: coarsely chopped, soft-shell crabs stir-fried to a crisp, dark golden brown.
For the health-conscious, chef Sumet recreated a dish which the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok serves in its spa: chicken marinated in turmeric and served with a yogurt and cucumber dip.
Another dish on the menu looked oddly familiar: herbed chicken on bread. In the first cooking class I took in Bangkok, we prepared something similar, except that we used shrimps instead of chicken.
According to chef Sumet, the recipes for both dishes are indeed similar, with chicken and pork being good substitutes for the shrimps.
Here is chef Sumet’s recipe for this dish (with proportions adjusted for the home cook).
“Tastes of Thailand” is being served as part of the lunch and dinner buffet of Paseo Uno Restaurant, Mandarin Oriental Manila, until March 10. Call 7508888. Chef Sumet will also conduct a cooking class on March 9, 9 a.m., at the Mandarin Oriental.
Khanom Pang Nah Gai Roey Nga
(Fried toast with herbed chicken and sesame seed topping with cucumber relish)
250 g minced chicken breast or ground chicken or ground pork or diced shrimps
¼ c chopped onions
¼ c chopped garlic
8-10 coriander (wansuy) roots, chopped (See tips.)
1½ tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper powder
10 pc sandwich bread
Roasted white sesame seeds
Roasted black sesame seeds
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups cooking oil
In a bowl, combine the meat (or shrimps), onions, garlic, coriander roots, light soy sauce, salt and pepper. Knead ingredients together until well-mixed.
Spread the mixture on the sandwich bread, dividing equally. Sprinkle the top with white and black sesame seeds. Dip the mixture side of the bread on the beaten eggs (do not dip the entire bread).
Heat oil in a skillet and deep-fry each bread slice (mixture side down) until mixture is fully cooked and golden brown. Transfer bread to a clean plate lined with absorbent paper. Cut each bread into four pieces. Serve with cucumber relish.
For the cucumber relish:
1½ c white or rice vinegar
2 c white sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 small cucumber, diced
2-3 shallots or onions, finely diced
2-3 bird’s eye chilies (optional)
In a saucepan, bring vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until sugar is dissolved and liquid becomes clear, around three to four minutes. Let cool.
Combine cucumbers, shallots and chilies in a bowl and pour the vinegar sauce over it.
When buying coriander, choose a bunch with the roots still attached. The roots are located on the stem ends of the leaves. They have a stronger aroma and flavor than the leaves. If the roots are thick, slice the roots vertically and remove the inner white piths which are hard.
If you can’t find black sesame seeds, just use the white variety. To roast the seeds, put them in a hot pan and heat them while turning them constantly around the pan with a heat-proof spatula.
Once the meat is cooked, do not turn the bread over. Just transfer the bread slices with the cooked meat to a plate lined with absorbent paper. Let cool slightly then cut into four equal pieces.
If desired, garnish each piece with coriander leaves before serving.
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