Monday, April 4, 2011

Guest Blog: The Kiwi Goes To Thailand

Oy!  In my travels to the Mexican Pyramids, I met a very fun Kiwi.  For those of you who just thought, what's a Kiwi?  A Kiwi is the nickname for New Zealanders.  Anyway, my global travels have slowed down quite a bit, but his have continued to ramp up.  I am now eating vicariously through him.  He just toured his way through Thailand, among a few other Asian countries, so here is the first ever, but hopefully not the last, guest blog. From my friend, Tim:

Those of us who live in the West (like the USA or even NZ) like to think we have access to the world's cuisine on our doorsteps but it's not until you travel that you realise the 'authentic' Mexican, Vietnamese or Italian restaurant down the road from home serves up the culinary equivalent of a street market copy watch - it's a far cry from the real thing.

Taco Bell does not serve Mexican food, Pizza Hut is not an Italian restaurant and it's a safe bet that the bland glutinous noodle dish you think is Pad Thai supplied by your local 'authentic' Thai restaurant is not the real deal either.

The other day I was lucky enough to experience the real thing at 'Patara' in downtown Bangkok. This joint is Thai dining at its best - it serves up authentic Thai with a capital A.

The secret of all great authentic Thai cooking is the subtle balance between sweet, sour, spicy and salty flavours. Even in sidewalk street cafe's in Thailand you'll see bowls of salt, sugar syrup  chillies and lemon (or lime) juice on the table - our version of salt and pepper. Patara's upmarket version of the same was sitting in the middle of the table in little pottery bowls - available just in case the chef hadn't got the balance to ones liking.

After  a mouthwatering array of Thai finger food 'starters' like duck wrapped in banana leaf and cooked with cane sugar and lemongrass, or a type of Kaffir Lime leaf heaped with four specially prepared condiments (again sweet, sour, salty and spicy) and then eaten like a wonton, it was time for the main event.

A never ending stream of Thai dishes appeared one after the other. The whole fried bass with lemongrass and honey sauce melted in your mouth. Green chicken and red beef curries started slow and then rose to a crescendo like exploding fireworks. The Tom Yum Goong soup packed with shrimp, mushroom, lemongrass and chillies was an exquisite blend of delicate flavours backed by an orchestra of chilli while a traditional green vegetable salad called pak boong (which should have been called pak BOOM) was one of the hottest dishes I've ever tasted with an aftertaste that remained for several minutes afterwards. 

It was hard to single out the highlights but the Pad Thai deserves a special mention  - garnished with carrot, a type of lemongrass, limes and peanut and bean sprouts the shrimps were to die for and noodles perfectly blended with the egg and spicy sauce in a way which can only be described as precise...manna from heaven!

By the time dessert arrived I thought things could not get any better. I was wrong. The sticky mango rice dessert was to die for..I have never tasted such a unique blend of flavours - the sticky rice was wrapped in a banana leaf and lightly salted but was also flavoured with a hint of honey and coconut cream wrapped in a banana leaf. The slivers of mango were succulent and as smooth as silk again sitting in a subtle coconut cream sauce. You eat it by taking some rice on your fork then adding a piece of mango letting the unique blend of flavours express themselves in your was nothing short of heavenly.

My advice....add an authentic Thai dining experience to your bucket list...and if you are ever in Bangkok, Patara is a very good place to start

What do you reckon...mouth watering yet?

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