Bringing Thailand to Kolkata: Chef Tharee Charupas hosts a festival fit for the Royals
Benjarong is all set to host the ‘Royal Thai Food Festival’ at its restaurant in South City Mall has flown down exclusively from Thailand, will be hosting the festival along with Benjarong’s Brand Chef Ram Kumar. The festival will feature a specially crafted menu with delicacies created by Thai noble women in the past. The authentic recipes of the Royal Thai cuisine have been passed down over generations and are still served to the Thai Royal family. The event has begun on the 18th of September and will continue till the 6th October 2013. Specialist Chef Tharee Charupas, with her exquisite preparation and cooking techniques, along with delicate and careful presentation while serving are unique to this traditional cuisine, brings to us a delight. Gaining popularity among the nobles of the Ayyuthaya Kingdom in the 1930s, the Royal Thai Cuisine legacy was passed down to future royal generations. To this day, only select places in Thailand serve these recipes.
The special menu includes a handpicked selection of vegetarian and non vegetarian delicacies. Starters include Goong sarong (Crispy Thai prawn spring rolls wrapped with wonton sheet, served with plum sauce), Tung Tong (crispy fried pouches stuffed with vegetables and water chestnuts) and Kunchien pu tod (Deep fried stuffed crab claws served with sri racha chilli sauce). Apart from soups and salads made with unique flavours and ingredients, the highlights on the main course include Khao Mok which is a style of biryani with chicken or vegetables made in the Thai Royal kitchen influenced by Islamic kitchens, the Poo Phad Pong Karee which is Crab meat cooked in Thai curry powder and celery topped with beaten egg and Hed Hohu Pahd Bai graprou which is Bean curd and mushroom cooked in chilli and holy basil. Speaking about hosting the special festival Chef Charupas said, “I’m extremely delighted to visit Kolkata again to host the Royal Thai food Festival at Benjarong. Last year, our guests loved the cuisine we offered and we are excited about bringing it back for foodies here. This is a rare and exciting cuisine and we hope more and more people are able to appreciate it”. Décor and presentation being integral to the royal experience, the restaurant will be decked with flowers to create the perfect royal ambience. A live fruit and vegetable carving counter will present exquisite food decorations. The Royal Thai Food festival is sure to delight Thai food aficionados across the city in Kolkata.
I entered Benjarong and spoke with Chef Tharee, who was a gracious and kind person, and we chatted amiably about Thai food for a while before moving on to lunch. I was slightly late, so we decided to skip the niceties and go straight for the preview. I have been to the Loi Krathong festival so was happy to return and check out what they had on offer this time around.
|Our Hosts: Chef Ram Kumar and Chef Tharee on the Left.|
As soon as the introduction to the Royal Thai Food Festival was over, the servers brought in copious amounts of food.
|Pla Hor Baitaey – Fish wrapped in Pandanus Leaves and Deep Fried.|
The fish came first. As I am slightly allergic to most fishes, I chose to eat as little of this as possible – however, the succulent Basa fish, delicately flavored with Pandanus, was moist and melt-in-your-mouth tender, if a little too fishy-smelling for my taste.
|Yum Som O Je – Pomelo Salad|
The Pomelo Salad was my first favorite in the menu – sharp hits of chilli and refreshing citrus which burst into your mouth, this was a salad that was like being kicked awake. My taste buds sang at the sudden jolt of sensation.
|Tom Yum Woonsen Lookchin Gai/Phak (Tom Yum Soup with Chicken Meatballs)|
This lovely clear soup with springy chicken balls in it created a little disaster while consumption, and half the content landed on my lovely kurti seconds after I started eating. Of course, the staff quickly took care of poor me and my dress, but yes, mortification was the key.
|Khao Phad Phak – Tomato and Garlic Flavored Vegetable Rice.|
The main course started with the tossed fried rice lightly flavored with tomato and garlic. It was slightly underseasoned for my liking, but overall, tasted nice when accompanied with the vegetables that came with it.
|Pahd Phak Nopa Kao – 9 vegetables sauteed with garlic and soy sauce|
The 9 Vegetables that were sauteed with garlic and soy sauce were crunchy and simple – the soy sauce base was simplicity itself.
|Goong Phad Pong Curry – Stir Fried Prawns Cooked in Thai Curry Powder, topped with Beaten Egg|
I tried a bit of the prawns, a bite of the flesh and the sauce – the egg gave the prawn curry some much needed silkiness, although the prawns themselves were slightly more chewy than I would have liked.
|Kaeng Guay Tiew – Yellow Curry Noodles|
The Yellow Curry Noodles were interesting, with a turmeric base which I liked, although we found it slightly less salty than we would have preferred.
|Gai Tod Med Muang Himapan – Crispy Chicken tossed with cashew and chillies|
The crispy chicken came last – by then I was quite full, and feeling extremely relaxed and wanting a bed to lie down. The chicken was deep fried and then tossed with cashew and chillies – and I would have preferred this coming before rather than after the prawns and noodles.
|Sakoo Piak Maprow Orn|
Sago Pudding was the last course – I am not much of a fan so Sago or Coconut in a dessert – and the texture of Sago was not to my taste at all. But a die hard coconut and sago lover would cherish this, I am sure. There wasn’t enough palm sugar in this for my liking.
|Happy diners at the end of the meal. 🙂|
Shop No. 308, South City Mall,
# 375, Prince Anwar Shah Road,
Kolkata – 700 068.
Reservations for the festival can be made at 033-2422 8584, 033-32568052.
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to Benjarong for a complementary special meal to preview the festival. No monetary transaction was involved, and her opinions are unbiased.