The people of Chennai prefer to give an Indian twist to Thai food as compared to those in Mumbai and Delhi, said a senior chef at The Lotus restaurant in The Park, Chennai.Hailing from Thailand, the Thai cuisine restaurant's Chef de Cuisine Satit Chaimano, 59, had earlier worked in Thai restaurant's in Delhi and Mumbai."Here there should be no or less sweet in the food. The main course should have spicy thick gravy while the dessert should be very sweet. Though people may say they would like to have authentic Thai food, they prefer an Indian twist to the Thai food," Chaimano, who is anchoring the Loy Krathong food festival at The Lotus told IANS.Serving the colourful coolers - rosella/wild hibiscus juice, bael juice and butterfly pea flower refresher and sugar syrup separately - he said Loy Krathong is one of Thailand's most significant festivals which takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar.One should try the coolers without the sugar syrup first to taste their natural flavour and if needed, add the sweetener.Loy Krathong translates to "to float a basket," and comes from the tradition of making krathong or buoyant, decorative baskets which are floated in water bodies or otherwise lanterns used in some parts of the country are floating into the sky.The significance of floating 'Krathongs' in water bodies is associated with the people of Thailand who have a close connection with water, being an agricultural country.
The rivers and water bodies are known to be like the blood in their veins, and hence to pay respect to the goddess of the river 'Pra Mae Khongkha', the people of Thailand float Krathongs to ask for forgiveness, wave away misfortune, wash away sins and wish luck for the New Year.Though no special dishes are made as part of the one-day Loy Krathong festival in Thailand, The Lotus offers a special dinner menu to mark the celebration, Chaimano said."The festival menu card is elaborate (38 dishes - non-vegetarian and vegetarian) akin to that of a standalone restaurant. It was Chaimano's decision," Executive Chef Ashutosh Nerleker told IANS."We call Chaimano our Santa Claus chef as he gets ingredients that are otherwise difficult to get," Nerleker added.By this time, the tom som pla tu soup (ginger and tamarind soup with mackerel) and the pickled cabbage broth arrived at the table.The tamarind gives out a gentle sweetish taste while the ginger sort of moderates that. The fishy soup with the soft mackerel is flavour-full.
The cabbage broth, with a good garlic flavour, was also gentle and tasty.Both the soups were not thick nor were they very thin and were a great way to start the meal.For those who avoid crab as it involves removing the shell, the crispy soft-shell crab with mango salad is a must try. One can take a bite of crab and the mango salad and savour the taste and flavour. Eaten separately or together, the taste is good.The vegetarian option is the Thai herb bites with lotus petals instead of the usual betel leaves.Both the salads - quail eggs and fruits/vegetables - tasted good and are must try items.For the main course, chef Chaimano served stir fried prawns with asparagus and mushrooms and rice and rice noodles with chicken stew.Both are flavourful and non-spicy, "as they are made in Thailand", said Chaimano. It is suggested to take the noodles along with chicken.On the other hand, the turmeric rice with massaman curry tasted good, without a tinge of turmeric taste. The stir fried glass noodles, vegetables, black fungus was also good.The sweet tooth should surely go for the cantaloupe and tapioca pearls in coconut milk to complete the dinner in a grand manner. There is also the jasmine flavoured milk jelly with fruits.
What: Loy Krathong Food Festival
Where: The Park, Chennai
When: November 16-25; 7 p.m. to 11.30 p.m.
Cost for two: About Rs. 3,000 plus taxes