The common misconception about Thai dishes is that they are too spicy. But while that hot kick is an integral part of Thai food, this Southeast Asian cuisine also offers a multitude of flavors from the clever use of various herbs and spices.
“The spiciness can be adjusted,” said Thai master chef Anurak Kanittharat, executive chef of Accor property Grand Mercure Phuket Patong Resort & Villas.
“I would describe Thai cuisine as flavorful—not just spicy, but flavorful,” he added.
Anurak was in Manila last week as part of the epicurean celebration “Flavors of the World: Jewels of Thai Cuisine” hosted by Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, in partnership with the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
And the dishes he served were proof that Thai food is a culinary gem in this part of the world—a feast not just for the tongue but for the eyes and nose as well.
His Tom Yum Goong, a traditional Thai soup with aromatic herb and tiger prawns, showcased subtle flavors minus the heavy portion of coconut milk.
“This is the version from Central Thailand, unlike the one you are more familiar with from the southern part which is stronger in flavor and spiciness. I used very little coconut milk as foam to balance the sourness,” explained Chef Anurak.
Dishes from the northern region of Thailand are generally milder, with strong influences from neighboring Myanmar.
The central region, which is home to royal Thai cuisine, is literally midway between the north and south when it comes to subtlety of flavors.
Anurak’s signature creations include the Yum Som-O Hoi Sell (seared queen scallops with pomelo salad and crispy coconut meat) and Larb Ped Yang (grilled duck breast with spicy mint and lime berry sauce).
“I chose scallops instead of prawns for the pomelo salad and it worked well with the sweet and sour flavors of the salad. The mild spiciness comes from the tamarind sauce and the coconut meat provides texture,” he said.
The mint and lime berry sauce, on the other hand, complemented the smokiness of the duck breast.
But the show-stopper of the five-course media launch menu was Chef Anurak’s Tom Kha Panang Nua—char-grilled beef tenderloin with aromatic herb coconut lemon sauce. It was a medley of flavors beautifully brought together by his Phanaeng curry that lent a thick, salty, sweet, and nutty flavor to the dish.
Thai cuisine has indeed secured its position in the global culinary map. But for Anurak, the desire to reinvent Asian classics through innovative culinary techniques continues.
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