Monday, May 12, 2014

Chef of the Week : Siriporn Krasae-at

Christened Chef Siriporn Krasae-at and known to everyone as "Joy", she lives up to her name with her sunny disposition and attitude. 

Chef Joy hails from picturesque Lopburi Province of Thailand and has studied at the prestigious Dusit Thani College in Thailand. Her first interest in Thai food developed on her home continent, at her grandmother's side from whom she learnt the intricacies of this complex and diverse cuisine. Thai cooking is not just her work but her avocation as well. 

A Thai specialty Chef, Joy possesses over ten years of rich culinary experience and has worked with some of the best hospitality brands in the world including the Grand Hyatt Mumbai, Grand Hyatt Doha, JW Marriot Phuket, Sheraton Krabi and many more. 

A lover of cinema and art, she is also an avid traveler and her love for cooking and travelling has taken her around the world. Her journeys around the world finally brought her to Shangri-La’s - Eros Hotel, New Delhi, where she has brought her own special magic to the Thai kitchen at the 
award - winning Pan Asian restaurant, 19 Oriental Avenue. 

Speaking on the appointment of Siriporn Krasae-at, Farhat Jamal, Area Manager and General Manager, Shangri-La's - Eros Hotel, New Delhi said “We are pleased to welcome 
Chef Siriporn Krasae-at into the Shangri-La family. Having worked with some of the most iconic brands in various countries, she possesses an extraordinary understanding of guest palettes and Thai cuisine. We are certain she will be instrumental in ensuring an inimitable Thai dining experience for all our guests."

It is certainly with high expectations that I land up at 19th Oriental Avenue to sample a special Thai lunch tailor-made for me by Chef Joy. Tall, cheerful and pleasant, Chef Joy has the natural, friendly manner of a perfect hotelier, peppered with interesting anecdotes about her experiences with food. She enquires about general information about my food likes and dislikes in an unassuming chat and leaves us to wait excitedly for what she might conjure. My companion is vegetarian and I am a bit of an omnivore! Chef Joy tells me that the predominantly non vegetarian Thai turn vegetarian briefly for a week during a festival in October. Celebrated primarily in Phuket since the 19th century when residents of Chinese ancestry, follow a rigorous ten-day vegetarian diet, and rituals at Chinese temples, parades and spiritual feats performed by ascetics are the highlights of this idyllic island's most exciting festival. The world is my oyster when it comes to food and I am all set for some Thai pearls of culinary wisdom.

Mar Hor- Thai Galloping Horses

It is the confidence of an accomplished Chef who sends a vegetarian starter five minutes after you've just told them you prefer non-veg! But what I see in front of me is a stunning rectangular platter with veg Mar Hor, square pineapple canapes on top of which is propped a ball of crunchy peanuts in an aromatic brown sauce, holding it all together. The taste is so appetising and complex and very refreshing to start a great meal with.
Gaeng Leang Prawn Soup
Next up Chef Joy appears with the soup-Gaeng Leang Prawn & Mixed Vegetable. I love the fact that it is clear, love the seafood flavours and perfectly cooked prawns with zero oil and an abundance of herbs. Also I love the fact that there are so many assorted vegetables in the soup, right from yellow pumpkin to babycorn to mushrooms. It is a meal in a dish actually. Chef Joy tells us that this soup is popularly given to new mothers after their delivery as it not only nourishes them but also helps clear and detoxify their system. A much better option than our desi ghee-filled, OTT Punjabi Panjiri, I say!

Squid with Chicken

Raw Papaya Salad

As we wait for the main course, Chef Joy surprises us with an entree- Squid stuffed with chicken. My companion has the classic raw papaya salad. This dish is nice but a bit heavy for me as it has glass noodles and too many tastes that are not summing up to a whole for me. Maybe the dish does not go with my interpretation of Thai food and is more like a cold meat terrine. Squid lovers would probably enjoy it much. Perhaps I don't want to ruin my main course, so I go easy on this.

I am glad I do that because the main course is truly spectacular. Chef Joy creates a stunning Duck with Tai Tum Krop in Red Thai Curry with plain Thai Rice. Tai Tum Krop is a fruit resembling slightly sweet and sour plums that offsets the duck brilliantly. It is the perfect dish, the tart fruit is just right with the rich duck. I try a bit of the Veg Thai Green Curry too.
Duck in Thai Red Curry with Jasmine Rice

The flavours are perfectly blended. I can't help admiring how beautifully the Thai create complex combinations of ingredients that are all too familiar to us Asians but at the same time treating them so differently and uniquely that the end result is nothing short of startling.

Take for instance water chestnut that we Indians have only during rainy season as a bland snack generally. The dessert here is water chestnut soaked in coconut milk and rose syrup with crushed ice. Simply divine!

The actual menu of the restaurant is expansive too but what Chef Joy has created especially for me, leaves me with pleasant memories of authentic Thai food one savours in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand, right here in Lutyen's Delhi. I know I'll be back here whenever I want to experience sheer joy!

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