Lovers of Thai food have only until Sunday to experience and appreciate authentic Royal Thai cuisine at Red Ginger, City of Dreams Manila’s Southeast Asian restaurant.
What’s the difference between Royal Thai cuisine and traditional Thai food? Guest Thai chef Aek Charttrakul explains that it’s simply in the method of preparing dishes from scratch to finish, including the use of ingredients from their very raw form to the final exquisite presentation.
“Royal Thai cooking refers to the very highest quality of Thai food prepared only in royal palaces in the olden days,” says Charttrakul. “Here, you couldn’t just use and blend together any raw ingredients. For example, coconut milk must first be cooked thoroughly with jasmine flower. Raw fish should rest for at least two days in smoked flour.”
Shrimp paste, chili paste, curry and fish sauce—some of the most important elements in Thai cooking—are also prepared from scratch. Most pastes, made from a mix of herbs, garlic, galangal and lime, are pounded in a mortar and not blended.
“All dishes, including steamed rice, are prepared in a clay pot and cooked only over charcoal,” says Charttrakul. “It’s more tedious and time-consuming, but the aroma and goodness of each dish truly come out.”
In the past, the recipes and preparation methods for Royal Thai cuisine were closely guarded secrets, with the non-royal classes forbidden from cooking or eating the dishes. Now, Royal Thai cooking has gone mainstream.
“Most restaurants and hotels in Thailand already present their food like the Royal Palace cooking,” says Charttrakul, who mastered Thai cuisine while working in 5-star hotels in Bangkok and a specialty restaurant in France.
Charttrakul now gives Filipinos a taste of Royal Thai food at Red Ginger featuring well-selected dishes that highlight the use of fresh herbs and spices like basil, garlic and chili. The a la carte menu is composed of either stir-fried or grilled dishes with lots of fish, pork, beef and chicken served in a variety of ways.
For appetizers, there’s Crispy Vermicelli tossed in Sweet and Sour Sauce. The flaky, toasted rice noodles are cooked in palm sugar, soya and mirin.
The Spicy Herbal Shrimp Salad is more tangy in taste and heavy on the chili sauce.
For the main course, the Green Curry with Chicken brings out the creaminess of Thai curry based on coconut milk and the pungent taste of fresh green chilies. The Roasted Pork Neck, meanwhile—caramelized, grilled and sliced into pieces—blends well with the spicy Thai dipping sauce.
The Steamed Fish Soufflé comes in succulent chunks of curried fish custard, covered in coconut cream topping garnished with thinly sliced red pepper and Kaffir lime leaves.
“We use a lot of Thai basil, coriander, lemongrass, thick coconut cream and galangal in our selection of dishes for the festival,” says Charttrakul. “We also try to adjust the seasoning and spiciness for those who cannot take it well.”
For desserts, Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango and Rice Flour Ball Dumpling in Coconut Milk complete the Thai dining experience.
Red Ginger’s Royal Thai Cuisine food festival runs until Sept. 25 at Red Ginger. Available for lunch, 12-3 p.m., and dinner, 6-11 p.m.