Thai Food in Kolkata

There is something wonderful about Thai food to me – especially the food that is served in a manner which can be only called simple. A country with a rich heritage of food, and a long-standing association with Bengal, Thailand to me is beyond the bustle of Bangkok, and rather, into the lush greenery of the villages. Food there is simpler – easy to cook and made with fresh ingredients.

Smoked Fish Soup

‘Arhan Pernban’ at The Park Hotel celebrates the beauty of simplicity – from the light seafood broth to the quickly stir-fried noodles, the dishes were all about keeping it simple, and adding little touches, here and there, to enhance the flavors. The Chefs, Ananchai, Ratri, and Tawaee, showcased an array of dishes which were executed with a grand flourish. Speaking about the dishes, Chef Sharad Dewan, Regional Director, Food Production at The Park Hotels said that they have done a considerable amount of research of roughly five months to compile the menu.

Starter Trio (L-R): Tenderloin topped with chilli paste, deep fried turnip cake, thai fried chicken

 We started with a trio of dishes –  the Jeennuangprikkha, slices of delicately steamed tenderloin, topped with a fiery chilli paste, flavored with galangal and salt, the Kanom Phak Kad, deep fried turnip cake which was nice, but I would have preferred it to be crispier, and Kai Thod, Thai style chicken fried to a crisp, and topped with a dash of deep fried garlic and chillies. The Smoked Fish Soup which accompanied it had slices of fish smoked, sliced, and then added to the broth, which made the light smoky flavor quite difficult to resist.

Crispy Fish Salad

The Yam Plakrob, or the crispy fish salad, was interesting, with slices of Bhetki fried to a crisp in a light batter, topped with a sweet and sour dressing and a smattering of peanuts. The fish was extremely moist, and the batter was crunchy – a combination I thought worked out rather well.

Mixed Mushroom Salad

I have a severe weakness for a well-made mushroom salad, and the Pla Hed had a considerable amount of wood-ear fungus and button mushrooms – in a tangy dressing which had a decided amount of sourness, and as it was left to marinate, the umami from the mushrooms mingled with the dressing, and added to it.

Rice Noodles with Tomatoes

 The interesting part about village food in Thailand is in the different influences on it. Northern Thailand sports a cuisine which has a considerable amount of Burmese influence, and, therefore, uses certain vegetables, like tomato, in the cuisine, which were brought in by the Portuguese to Asia during the Columbian Exchange. The rice noodles we were served was a prime example, with slices of tomatoes stir fried briefly with perfectly cooked rice noodles, and finished with some egg on top.

Nam Prik Ong Tofu

The Nam Prik Ong Tofu was another dish which showed this particular trend – the Tofu was minced and cooked in a tomato-based gravy. It went quite well with the sticky rice we were served, and cups of jasmine tea kept on coming as we progressed from one dish to another.

stir fried prawns in shrimp paste

 There are times when I am unhappy I cannot have seafood, and so, although everyone else in the table exclaimed over the prawns, I could not have them. I did make up by consuming copious amounts of beef curry with herbs, and would return to consume more of that with some rice on another day. The fun part is, up until now, the Chefs had deliberately withheld all dishes with coconut in it, to break the assumption that coconut is a must in Thai dishes.

dessert trio (L-R) Sticky rice and banana, Pumpkin in sweet coconut, Fried sweet potato balls

Coconut featured heavily in the dessert, in the form of the sticky rice and banana steamed in banana leaf packets, the pumpkin in sweet coconut milk, and the fried sweet potato balls. The delicate sweet potato balls were the winners for me – with fluffy innards, and a light crunch. The Arhan Pernban will begin at Zen from August 7th, and continue till the 23rd, and the dishes described here can be ordered off the a-la-carte menu.

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at The Park at the kind invitation of the management.

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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