Fried Prawns at Kolkata Benjarong 

Benjarong at South City Mall is celebrating Songkran this year with the Royal Thai Food Festival. The name ‘Songkran’ is derived from Sanskrit, and the festival signifies the entry of the sun into the Zodiac Aries, marking the beginning of spring and harvest festival. Traditionally, Thai celebrate the festival aiming water guns and by throwing water balloons at each other, quite like Holi. They also visit their elders to pay respect, meet their family and friends, and clean the images and idols of Lord Buddha, which is believed to bring prosperity and good luck.

Dragon Berry
No good meal can start off without a great drink, and the Dragon Berry was selected by Chef Karthik Kumar, who smilingly assured me I would like it. The base was strawberry crush, with plenty of dragonfruit macerated in it. I would have preferred fresh strawberries here, but well, it was nice and refreshing, all the same.
Crab Cakes at Benjarong
We started off with the Tod Mun Poo, with fresh, creamy crab meat patties fried till crisp and served with a hot and sweet Sriracha sauce. I kept on dipping everything in the sauce even after the crab cakes were gone. 
Grathong Thong
The Grathong Thong, with crisp tart shells filled with nubbins of chicken, prawn, vegetables, was nice, and I had had it before here. Its tasty, and before you know it, you are picking up the last one from the plate. 
Tung Tong dim sum at Benjarong
The Tung Tong was the only vegetarian dim sum in the menu. Wonton pouches stuffed with water chestnut and carrots sounded interesting, but somehow, was too bland for me. 
Lah Thiang at Benjarong
The Lah Thiang was nice, with pieces of soft, net-like omelette stuffed with minced chicken and prawns with a generous hit of soy. I would have wanted a bit more texture with some crunchy vegetables in it though, but the prawns and chicken worked quite well together. 
Goong Sarong – Prawns Wrapped in Wonton Sheets
But my favorite was probably the Goong Sarong, where fresh prawns were covered in wonton sheets before deep frying. Served with a sweet, clear sauce, the plump prawns were perfectly cooked and bursting with freshness.
Larb Hed Tofu (L) and Yam Goon Chiang (R)
No meal at Benjarong for me is complete without a salad, and the two salads served were interesting to say the least. Although the Yam Goon Chiang, a simple chicken sausage salad, tossed with a tangy dressing with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil, and bird’s eye chillies tasted good, I was floored by the Larb Hed Tofu, which had pieces of silken tofu tossed with wood ear fungus, button mushrooms, chillies, and soy-chilli dressing, and it came on a cabbage bowl. The creaminess of the tofu worked with the crunch from the wood ear fungus, and I finished my portion in no time. 
Kanna Kanaeng Pahd Gai – Chicken cooked with vegetables
I wanted something really different for the main course, and Chef Karthik surprised me with a very simple dish of well-cooked chicken with broccoli, Brussels sprouts and soybeans. It was very simple, but the vegetables were perfectly cooked, and the slight bitterness from the Brussels sprouts added to the beauty of the dish. 
Tofu Pokchoy Prik at Benjarong
On the other hand, the Tofu Pokchoy Prik was a stunner, cubes of tofu tossed together with pak choy in a hot and sweet sauce, topped with roasted peanuts. I kept on picking up pieces of tofu from the plate, and before popping in my mouth, added a peanut or two, to ensure the crunchy peanut complemented the creamy tofu. Win! 
Khao Mok at Benjarong
The Khao Mok (or Thailand’s version of the Biryani) was spicy, with a generous hit of Kaffir Lime, Galangal, Chillies, and it came with a side of dried shrimps, added for the textural difference. Soft pieces of chicken was cooked with the rice, and this was a meal all by itself, the faint smell of coconut milk adding to the dish considerably. I had a conversation with the chef, who told me that the  concept of Biryani was taken to Thailand from India, where the locals made the dish with what was available – adapting it to suit their taste buds. I was pretty happy with the result, and would like to recreate it sometimes at home. 
Khao Niew Moon, Rice Pudding
Dessert was rice pudding of two different kinds – Pandan and Lime. The tang from the lime was nice, but give me Pandan any day. Pandan is the reason for me to like Kaya toast. 
 The Royal Thai Festival at Benjarong, South City, started off in April, and will continue till 3rd May. Although I believe this post is slightly late, there is still the weekend to catch up on the food. 
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at Benjarong at the kind invitation of the management. 
Written by Poorna Banerjee

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