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Peter Green

The WGF in Bangkok

156 posts in this topic

Which are better, Thai or Filipino mangos?

Seriously, I want to know what he thinks.

How much of the produce in Thailand is now imported vs. produced locally?

I'm not so sure about tempura tuna rolls, but I suppose even iffy tuna rolls can only be improved when fried.

I hope you get some fried chicken skins while you're there! And some khao tang na tang! Maybe some krathong thong, too! And roti sai mai!

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Mmmmmm....roti sai mai is something I haven't had (outside of home) for a long time.

The South African chef tonight! Gotta go get tarted up now.

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Tonight was very good. Luke Dale-Roberts from La Colomba. A stunning fish dish.

And, I may change my mind on South African wines.

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One change to the list....

Carla Pernambuco from Carlota in Sao Paulo has opted out, and Paola Carosella from Arturito in Sao Paulo has stepped in.

She'll be working with Bodega Catena Zapata from Argentina, so I'm definitely going to be there. The chance of a good Malbec always makes me bare my canines.

The wine tasting is going to be Chateau Le Pin.

For the sake to go with Sawada's meal, I have this:

SHIRATAKI JUNMAI DAIGINJO JOZEN MIZUNOGOTOSHI SAKE

SHIRATAKI JUNMAIGINJO JUKUSEI NO JOZEN MIZUNOGOTOSHI SAKE

SHIRATAKI JUNMAIGINJO JOZEN MIZUNOGOTOSHI SAKE

ICHINOKURA TOKUBETSUJUNMAI SHORAI SAKE

ICHINOKURA HONJOZO MUKANSA CHOKARAKUCHI SAKE

ICHINOKURA HIMEZEN SWEET SAKE

I'm getting rather excited.

I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say about the three Shirataki brands. I was thinking of visiting this brewery (located in Yuzawa Town, Niigata Pref.) for sake tasting, when I discovered this post of yours. What a coincidence!

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As we say, life is a string of coincidences. (if we don't say that, we should)

When I found out about the chef, I was excited. When I found out about the sakes, I was over the top.

I'm really looking forward to the lunch/cooking class on Saturday, and the finish in Shintaro with the full dinner on Sunday.

Okay, the early plain ride on Monday is another matter........

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How do you make the sugar stuff for roti sai mai at home? Or do you just use cotton candy?

I'm waiting for updates. I need something to encourage my attendance next year. :wink:

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Patience, little bunny, patience. We've had the usual internet bandwidth problems. But I have pictures uploading now.

But will they be done before we have to leave for foie gras and champagne? (Ginor in 45 minutes)..

:hmmm:

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October 4 – 2009 – The preWGF intro

Twas the night before the WGF, and all through the house, everyone was heading for brunch.

My idea of a good trip is to be tossed off some awful flight from somewhere, shake myself off, perhaps shower, and then go to brunch at the Four Seasons in Bangkok.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m a simple man of common tastes.

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We’ve done this so many times, so I won’t go into details, we’ll just make do with the food porn shots.

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There were some new items, as always. For me, the highlight was the khao soy, that rich dish of Chiang Mai, crisp noodles and warm broth. Plenty of chilli, and a good depth of flavour in the broth.

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My theory of timing is working well. I do recommend taking the heavier meat cuts (like this prime rib with green peppercorns) early in the meal

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Foie gras soufflé is always a good filler, able to round things out when called upon.

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And some may consider it passé, but I still like my slabs of foie gras for breakfast with champagne and martinis.

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I did go for an egg fest this time. Too often I forget about that island of ice out there in the goldfish pound. But this dish really called for Korean rice, and a mix of al bap.

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Another bit of Thailand were the pork balls – lathered in a sweet sauce 0 and the gilled pork with a nice, brutal chili sauce.

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Lobster claws are back. We almost missed these, as they were brought out later in the morning. Probably for the best. The oysters, as I’ve said, will invigorate you and send you back into the fray, but the lobster (and crab) will lead you along innocently, and then slam your appetite into a wall.

I wonder if there’s a job available somewhere as a brunch coach?

Yoonhi and M disappeared for a 4 p.m. spa appointment. Yoonhi’s plan is to spend as much time being massaged as I spend doing classes.

Tall order.

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In the lounge, there was the usual fine collection of dishes. One of my favourites is green mango with a good nam praa wan (fish sauce and chili dip) – the burrn and then the tang and cool of the mango, the mango itself bringing a tartness.

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Some little bits of fried pork accompanied by crisp basil (which is something I need to learn. I never get the basil crispy enough).

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And we don’t talk about it often enough, but the fruits of Thailand are a joy. Fresh papaya (with a squeeze of lime to perk it up). And the pineapple is another story altogether.

I’ve always got another story.

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But these simple pleasures were pushed aside with the return of Yoonhi na M. We were heading out into the hard, cruel, Hello Kitty of the night.

Our first stop was Niu. As you’d say it’s name, it was new, recently opened up down Silom across from Silom Shpping Village and near the Holiday Inn.

There are two floors. Upstairs is a quiet, elegant dining room. The menu is Italian, chef Marco having come here from Rossini’s in the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit.

Downstairs was a comfortable looking jazz club, with heavy leather chairs clustered around a small stage.

But this wasn’t what we were looking for tonight. In typical fashion, we piled out and drove off to the next place. (Niu has had some very good recommendations, though, so I have to bookmark it for a return).

M drove to Lebua at the Dome.

“We’re not eating here, are we?”

“No, we’re just going to park.”

Oh, well, that’s a relief.

Sure enough, we ditched the car and grabbed a taxi. Knowing where to strategically leave your vehicle is a fine skill in this town.

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We were off for a long drive, up Charoen Krung and through China Town to the far riverside of the Rama VIII bridge.

Chinlom Chom Sapan

As expected, my leaky memory had this mixed up with Baan Rabiang Nam, which Stupid American had recommended. I trust his judgement, so I was a little disappointed when it was the place. But hey, bo bpen nyang.

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Still, we were off to a good start. Just over the railing a skiff pulled up with phlaa muk yang – dried squid grilled and then rolled out to soften it.

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A cold beer (or three) and a piece of this to rip to shreds and gnaw upon is always an elegant beginning.

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Next was M’s favourite here – mieng kham with another sweet and spicey sauce. This was packed with little dried and reconstituted shrimp. You could make out the eyes and face of each one (if I had a better camera).

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This was an interesting dish, not what we’d expected. The menu had it as clam in a sizzling pot, and my interest had been in the clams, but what arrived were the reconstituted dried scallops in there, the big chewy ones. It was an interesting contrast of textures, which is a nice way of saying it was “really chewy”. Not my favourite dish, I must say, but still better than anything I’m going to make.

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I always like the fish mousse. Here it had been curried, then braised in banana leaf, to be opened and dressed with coconut cream and herbs and chilis.

Above the fish you’ll see the chicken knuckles – little tidbits to through back with fresh peanuts, ginger, and chilis.

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And then there was the omelet of oysters – hoi tod. If I can’t have oysters fresh and raw, I want them in a Thai omelet. Everything pulls away fluffy, and then the beansprouts crunch it out, and the herbs lift your nose from the oily egg smell.

Near the exit I did note that they made a point that Chinlom Chom Sapan was not using msg in any of their cooking anymore – in deference to the health of their customers. Things are changing.

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Like a lot of the big places, they also keep their kitchen open to view, in part to facilitate serving, but also to give people confidence in what’s being done.

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Me, I just like spying in kitchens.

From here, by the magic of metered taxis, we werer whisked back across the night of Bangkok, picking out occasional landmarks like the train station at Hualamphong.

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One of the factors in tactical parking is that you have to be willing to pay the piper. We were up to the top of Lebua, under the Dome, for martinis and mojitos.

Like Vertigo at the Banyan Tree, you’re here for the view.

And it is a great view. The river is down there, as are the freeways and byways.

For me, though, I would probably take Vertigo. The effect of being on the edge is better at Vertigo, perched way out there without any higher supports. Okay, if you’re planning on staying coiffed, that may not work that well for you, but I like that edge. Here the Dome itself tends to settle your qualms more as it looms over you in the sky. And the bar is flanked by lower levels, so you don’t get that “drop off the edge” feeling. It’s a more secure feeling, but that’s not what you come to this sort of place for.

As for drinks – no complaints. However, as this place gets a lot more of the tourist crowd, the service was more rushed, and you got the feeling that they had to deal with a lot of people just coming for a look around.

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It must be something of an issue for them, as they do post a warning on the dress code.

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Now, in comparison to the Skybar, which felt more like an outing to the Grand Canyon observatory, I did like Distil.

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This is a solid, comfortable bar. Good service, and the outdoor area, with it’s wide bench around the edge, provides a feeling of….chill. There’s a bit of a view, but they’re not emphasizing that. This is a good thing, as there are notably fewer tourists on this side, and the folks here are enjoying this place in line with its purpose.

The night was drawing to a close, and jetlag had its ugly claws well fastened into our eyeballs. It was relatively early, but we figured we’d done enough here to justify the parking.

Tomorrow was a busy day.

Next – David Thompson

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October 5, 2009

Cooking with David Thompson, from Nahm, the Halkin Hotel, London

If you’re reading a thread like this related to Bangkok and Thailand, then you probably already know David Thompson. So I’ll keep this short as much will work back into the text later.

History. David is all about history, and so we should start there. I’ll lift parts of this from other conversations I had with David later on, so if you’re reading this after having attended with me, that’s why it might seem different.

So, let's get start.

For a leading light in Thai cuisine, I was surprised to hear that he’d actually hated the food when he first tasted it. Rather than the food, it was the Thai culture that lured him in (“The place just seduced me”). Soon enough he took an interest in the food, and settled down under the tutelage of Khun Sombat Janpehetchara, whose background was in the palace kitchens.

In 1991 he returned to Oz, and opened the Darley Street Thai, which pretty much owned the title of Best Thai in Sydney for the rest of the decade. Then, in 2001, he opened up Nahm at the Halkin Hotel, and took his Michelin star in 2002. In 2004 he put out the massive (it’s a big book) Thai Food, which collects his research and studies (and recipes) on Thai cooking. You’ll find it elsewhere in the threads as a standard reference when the topic of Thai cuisine comes up.

He has a new book coming out – Thai Street Food – which should be released in Australia in the next week or so (as I wrap up this post now). The North American-UK version won’t be out until early next year through some odd twist of antipodean reasoning (well, it may not be their fault) so I’ll have to wait a few months for that.

So, that’s the brief. How then did the class progress?

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David Thompson was in a fine way, in classic morning (well, perhaps it was just past noon, but that’s close enough to morning for most of us) form.

“It’s a Monday morning, it’s the start of the WGF, and you’ve got me out of bed. You’re a damned nuisance, the lot of you.”

Yes, I'm up for this.

So, what are we doing for lunch today?

Noodles. Thai noodles. Kanom jin.

Kanom Jin with three sauces

Geng Yaa Baa – Smoked fish with bamboo and betel leaves

Nahm Yaa Gai – Chicken and wild ginger

Nahm Yaa Soi Gung Sap – Prawns with shredded herbs

The room was full, which provided a fine stalking ground for victims. From our table he picked out A.., who was celebrating his birthday. David has known him for some years, and as its an Australian tradition not to hesitate about embarrassing your mates.

And, heck, it was his birthday.

(A… was over from Bo.Lan, where he’s working in the kitchen with Khun Bo and Dylan. I checked with him, and they’re doing lunches on the weekends, so I must try and get things lined up for November so I can show Yoonhi the place).

The first task was to get A… pounding the chilies. David heavily recommends making Thai food in teams, as this allows you to get someone else to do the hard work.

Geng Yaa Baa – Smoked fish with bamboo and betel leaves

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of stock, worked up with the bones of the fish and the off cuts. You can use water, or chicken stock, but if you have that carcrass there, then why not?
  • a good pinch of salt
  • another pinch, this time of white sugar
  • a cup of the curry paste we’ll talk about below
  • 2 tbsp of fish sauce (and they’re using megachef)
  • about 1 tsp of palm sugar
  • one cup of shredded, blanched bamboo, or yellow aubergines
  • a few tablespoons sliced grateu – or a mixture of white tumeric, ginger, and grachai
  • ½ cup shredded betel leaves

For the geng yaa curry paste:

  • 14 large dried red chllies
  • salt
  • 4 small dried red chillies – and these can be, like me, toasted
  • 2 tbsp lemongrass
  • 2 tbsp galangal
  • 5 tbsp grachai
  • 3 tbsp thai garlic
  • 1 rounded tsp gapi
  • 1 small grilled plaa duk yang – about ½ cup meat
  • 3 to 4 tbsp grilled plaa gulao meat

For condiments, and condiments are an important part of this dish:

  • kanom jin (of course)
  • steamed eggs
  • plaa salit tort
  • pickled gratin – an acacia like herb
  • pickled banana blossoms, mustard greens or bean sprouts
  • fresh bean sprouts
  • sadtor beans (for a lingering pungency)
  • lemon basil (the indispensable herb)
  • banana blossoms

The class today we would be doing a trio of sauces, all set up to work with kanom jin. It’s a good, unified approach to a lunch, as kanom jin is a fine, mid day meal, best served at room temperature. Plus, it works well with different sauces, the flavours mixing together. Once I get back to my Spring Break, I’ll cover more of it.

Kanom jin, itself, is a Thai noodle, as opposed to the majority which is of Chinese origin. Well, we say “Thai”, but it seems to have been introduced through the Mon.

Our first dish was (arguably) the most interesting. This worked off of smoky, complex flavours from the fish used in the paste. Behind it were a number of specific items, the plaa insin being something I hadn’t worked with before. And then there was plaa raad, in all its fermented glory.

Working it up, they took the bones off of the smoked, salted fish they were using, and stocked those, with some of the off cuts of the herbs and other stuff that would be used (lemon grass, grachai, grateur (a relatively obscure Southern rhizome), galangal, and other stuff we’ll talk about soon).

David had a good thought, and one he’d failed to act upon earlier (it is a Monday morning, after all), which would have been to use the stock to wash out the paste from the mortar. Bo bpen nyang.

There was a lot of good material on pestle action, much of it at A’s expense (and others as we worked through). Chef Ann from the Spice Market stepped in to help with the pounding, and it was interesting watching the different techniques employed in holding the pestle.

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For Chef Ann’s technique (from the Four Seasons Spice Market), her fingers were down on the shaft, the thumb gliding forward, the wrist supple.

For David, it was a manlier grip on the top of the pestle, but with that same smoothness in the wrist. It was a hit, and a rock forward (“Don’t mill it”). It’s like watching the Sichuan chefs practicing with their woks full of sand. It looks easy, but it’s a lot of work.

And, as David says, a Thai mother-in-law can tell a person’s nature from how they use a mortar and pestle.

We were working now with the chilies in the mortar. He’d soaked these in water. The idea here is that the water draws out some of the coarser heat from the peppers. It’s not that you want to lower the spice, but by removing the overburn, you can use more chilies in your paste and so deepen the flavour.

He added in some salt as he pounded. This breaks the peppers down more, and acts as a preservative.

To this, he adds in some fresh green chilies. These will add zest to the flavour, making up for the mellowness we’ve induced with the soak on the dried red peppers.

Then, once the chili is broken down (which takes him a few moments and the rest of us half an hour) he chops up some lemon grass and adds that to the pound.

Next, some galangal, and then the plaa in see – the stinky salted fish.

You want to get this down to a fine puree. Then you add garlic, and use your nose and underside of the lip to adjust the flavour.

There’s a comment, too, that arose later. Thai cooking is about adjusting and modifying on the fly. You never know exactly what the flavour of the chilies or herbs is going to be, so you need to test as you go.

An important point that he brought up is that with the curry pastes themselves, rely upon your sense of smell. In their initial form, the flavours are “too sharp and raw. You’ll get confused.

The grateur we’re using gives a perfume smell to the dishes.

You take the stock worked up from the fish bones (but you could use chicken stock, or even just water) and then add the paste.

The sauce will need about five to six minutes over heat, but then you need to let it settle for an hour, giving the marriage time for a honeymoon. You’ll get that perfume from the grateur coming out – the smell of wild ginger.

Once you get to that olfactory happy time, you can start to season and adjust, using palm sugar and nam plaa. The smell is wild ginger, and the taste is from the fish. You can balance against these with powdered chili pepper.

For a nam plaa, David is recommending Megachef, which we can get over at Paragon. He’s importing this into London for his restaurant. It’s a beautiful brown colour, a deeper, murkier shade than what I’m usually working with off the shelf here.

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Now things get interesting. Coarsely shred and blanch the bamboo. We say blanch, but work this up from a cold start. This will leech out the bitterness of the bamboo.

Add the bamboo to the sauce.

Add some grateur to get the aroma.

Then add the shredded betel leaf (bpai cham poo). This, he felt, was a surprise in the recipe

Old fashioned Thai food is full of surprises”.

What you get, once it’s all together, is a thick, pungent smoky sauce. You need to let this sit for at least half an hour to marry, but honestly, the longer you give it, the better it will get.

David tastes the mix for the proper saltiness, and then adds in some more chili powder for “sheer vindictive revenge”.

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I do admire the Australians.

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David has kept the noodles covered with bamboo leaf to keep them moist. Now he puts them to the plate, with an egg on the side, sets the condiments, and explains how then you should pull apart your herbs, spoon the sauce onto the noodles, use your spoon and fork to break up the noodles, and then mix it all into a mess.

As you stir it all about the basil opens up, and you have a very nice lunch.

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I asked David what he would look for in a wine to go with this?

Alcohol.”

I told you I liked the Australians, didn’t I?

For this he would look to a rose, perhaps, or a light shiraz, perhaps a German Riesling.

But most important – alcohol.

NAHM YAA SOI GUNG SAP- prawns with shredded herbs

Ingredients

  • 500 g medium small prawns
  • 1 cups coconut cream
  • a few tablespoons stock or water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • pinch palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sliced red shallots
  • 1 heaped tablespoon sliced Thai garlic
  • 2 tablespoons sliced lemongrass
  • ½ teaspoon sliced galangal
  • 4 tablespoons shredded grachai
  • several sliced scuds – optional
  • a little additional fish sauce – to taste
  • 3 – 4 shredded kaffir lime leaves
  • additional ½ cup coconut cream

Served accompanied by

  • kanom jin
  • lemon basil
  • white turmeric
  • sliced cucumbers
  • trimmed bean sprouts

When they talk here about “shredded herbs” really they’re talking about a very fine chop. The finer you can chop the ingredients, the more elegant this dish is.

First we peel the prawns and reserve the tomalley. From this volume we’re looking for about three tablespoons.

Then we boil the coconut cream, and add in the tomalley, touching this up with the palm sugar. Then, for salt, we hit it with the nam plaa.

At this point we drop the boil down, and then add the prawns.

The result at this point is quite rich and creamy, on the sweet side.

Then the rest of the ingredients are introduced, and stirred and shaken in.

This is allowed to simmer for a minute or two.

It’s a simple sauce, which is what makes it elegant. You’ll adjust the sweetness by adding salt via the nam plaa, and a little bit of chili to pepper it up, and some of the wild ginger for the nose.

Good Thai food is about tasting the dish for the ingredients. Always feel free to add more stuff.Som saa – that key ingredient for mee krob – would be a very good addition here, giving a wonderful smell. Assuming, of course, that you could find it. Som saa has, according my friend CL at my shoulder, become harder and harder to find. The latest source she’d found was going to Uthai Thani and talking to the growers there directly.

Wanting more salt, he adds sea salt rather than nam plaa to avoid making the dish too wet.

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The result is a gentle, slightly sweet sauce, giving us relief from the more aggressive flavours of the other toppings.

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To plate, we arrange banana blossoms, cucumber, white turmeric (for an earthy pungency) and then make a mess of it all again.

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Next kanom jin nahm yaa gai – chicken and wild ginger.

Ingredients

  • 150 g chicken breast, skinless
  • pinch salt
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups stock
  • nahm yaa gai curry paste – see below
  • 1 – 1½ tablespoons fish sauce – to taste
  • pinch white sugar
  • good pinch chilli powder
  • 1 cup coconut cream

nahm yaa gai paste

yields 100 g or about ½ cup

  • 10 dried large red chillies 20 g
  • salt
  • 2 or 3 scuds
  • 2 tablespoons galangal 20 g
  • 3 tablespoons sliced lemongrass 25 g
  • 3 tablespoons chopped grachai 60 g
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red shallots 25 g
  • 1½ tablespoons garlic 50 g
  • ½ tablespoon gapi 20 g
  • about 1 tablespoons or 10 g
  • salted plaa insiri or plaa gulao, grilled or toasted until fragrant

Served with,

  • sprigs of lemon basil
  • bean sprouts
  • coriander
  • shredded banana blossoms
  • boiled eggs
  • pickled mustard green or bean sprouts or siamese watercress
  • snake beans
  • chopped green beans

This sauce was more of a standard for kanom jin. You start by poaching the chicken in salted coconut milk and stock (at least, you’re supposed to “It would’ve been clever if I’d poached it in the coconut milk as I should’ve”). As before, toss in any of the bits and pieces hanging about after you’ve prepped for the paste. Once it’s cooked, remove the meat, let it cool, and then shred it. You’re looking to have about a half a cup (heaped) of chcken once you’re done. It’ll go into the paste.

Start with the chillis, as before, pulling them out from the water they’ve been soaking in.

For the pounding this time, David gave A… a rest, and called up young Somchai (aka Austin Bush, familiar to a lot of us from his posts on eGullet, and his own website).

Once you have the dried chillis worked down to a paste, add the next ingredient – the “scuds”, which are the small rat turd peppers, to give some zest – and then get that down to a paste.

Now add the grachai, and follow the flavour with your nose, as we’d said before, rather than by tasting. Pound that down. David didn’t follow the order of the recipe book, but the method is to break each ingredient down into the paste separately, working up a fine paste. Finish with the fish, in this case the fragrant plaa insin.

Once the paste is ready, David then pitched shreds of the meat into the mortar as Austin kept on pounding (for the record, Austin’s pounding was seen as showing a “constant and reliable” nature). The chicken was broken down to the desired smooth consistency, and then we were ready for the sauce.

Pour four cups of the coconut stock we (should’ve) poached the chicken with into a pot, and bring that to a boil. Now stir in our paste and let it simmer gently for a few minutes, keeping a slow stir going so it doesn’t catch. Use that last bit of stock to adjust so it doesn’t get too thick as it reduces.

This you can taste, and it’s a bit raw now. Like the earlier sauce, this needs a bit of time for things to come together.

The reduction is going to concentrate flavours, so hold off on the final seasoning until you’re ready, and then adjust with the namplaa, white sugar, and chili powder. This sauce comes out rich, salty, hot, sharp from the grachai and galangal; and creamy and smoky from the fish.

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This was plated with the condiments and noodles - the crisp banana blossoms and sprouts, the give of the chopped green beans, the give of the egg, and smell of the snake beans and basil.

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We were eating the dishes as we went, and, of course, drinking as we went, too. George Duboeuf’s Puilly Fuisse 2007 to start. A good French Chardonnay, but it was struggling with the strong flavours of the geng yaa. I made a point of drinking a lot of this before digging into the noodles. Once we got to the gentler flavours of the prawns, this wasn’t a bad choice.

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George Duboeuf Moulin A Vent 2007 (Gamay). This went better with the geng yaa and the chicken sauces. I drank more of this.

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Dessert brought back fond memories. Surprises wrapped in fresh leaves.

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Inside was a bit of a mess, but the flavours of sticky rice, sweet coconut cream, and the caramelized peanuts was just fine. I could have been back on the banks of Sisowah Quay watching the Bassac go by in flood.

My friend, CL, had a similar reaction. She’d been commenting through the meal that many of the ingredients and methods were things she recognized from her youth, but that you never saw them anymore.

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At the very end, another bit of the old days, a peanut brittle on banana chips with flecks of gold. (Yes, I’m a shoddy photographer).

It’s worth mentioning that the class was a pretty good mix of Thai and Westerners, with the preponderance more Thai. While David may have been slightly frustrated at the difficulty in engaging the audience, I did get the impression from CL and my other friends there that his studies on Thai cooking and history were well appreciated. There’s always the worry of “who are you to tell us how to cook” in a situation like this, but I didn’t get that impression here.

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There is a current running through Thai society these last few years that a lot of tradition is being lost as life becomes faster and more demanding. David Thompson is trying to save what he can of those traditions, so more power to him.

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Quick note - Austin was at almost all of the classes and most of the other events I was. Austin is also a lot harder working than I am, so his stuff is all up there already.

Like with Chubby Hubby a couple of years ago, I'm trying really hard right now not to look at his blog (but the pictures are always excellent), so as not to bias me.

You all, of course, are free to your own devices. Just, please, don't ask me to account for any differences in what we report until I've finished posting all of my stuff.

Just assume that Austin's right and I'm wrong.

Next - Dinner with Graham

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Just in the nick of time....

I'd wanted to put up these two shots, not because the quality is great, but it makes the class look more like the fun it was.

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Our visiting chef from Bo.Lan, aka A.... was Adam. Another of the David Thompson crowd.

Now that I think on it, there's an interesting thought. As we've seen Fergus Henderson's people move out and open their own places, where else are David Thompson's protege's showing up? But that's material for another thread.

As another aside, I'm very happy to see this bo.lan thriving. One reason that I have to add these shots on is because, when I phoned the restaurant to ask for permission, I was told that everyone was too busy cooking to come to the phone. In my mind, that's a perfectly sound reason.

So, I give you the name of our mystery pounder (Adam, in case you missed it before), and these two shots, which show that we were having a lot of fun.

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Rule #41 - never volunteer

Rule #42 - never let your mates volunteer you

Note: edited multiple times as I'm engaged in internecine war with my keyboard


Edited by Peter Green (log)

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October 5 – dinner – Graham Elliot Bowles- Graham Elliot – Chicago, USA

(I need to mention the USA part in the title, so you don’t get it mixed up with the other Chicagos.)

Graham was one of the chefs that I’d been keen on from the start. He’s young, aggressive, and looked like he’d be a lot of fun.

We were dining in Biscotti tonight, opening night for the WGF, which is probably my favourite venue for this sort of meal , with it’s open kitchen providing good access to the chefs at work.

The intro on Graham, ably delivered by Malcolm Ormond, F&B for the Four Seasons, talked about his life as a Navy brat, and of his exposure to a wide (very wide) variety of foods from a young age. He took this to heart (and most of his other organs) and had, by the age of 27 in 2008 been “nominated for the prestigious James Beard title ‘Best Chef, Great Lakes’.”

Tonight he was here representing his own restaurant, opened in 2008, by the name of “Graham Elliot”, in, of course, Chicago, USA.

And he is very much a larger than life, in your face, Chicago boy.

So, I was expecting some fun.

(Actually, listening to him talk, I was really sorry I wasn’t in his cooking class, but one of the hardships of this week is choosing what you do, and what you miss…..so many meals, so little time….put that on my gravestone…..it’ll be wide enough.)

Our wine this evening was American. Kendall-Jackson. Supplied through the California Wine Company here in Thailand, they’ve been a very staunch supporter of the WGF over the years, and Jeff Cook, their rep, goes back even farther than that, having represented Mondavi over here in years gone by (I remember the night we did a vertical tasting, and having the news announced of the dissolution of Mondavi.)

Maybe I should write a book on the WGF?

Maybe not.

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Our opening wine, from the lobby, through the mingling, and to the table, had been a Vintner’s Reserve, Chardonnay, 2007. A good opening, waking up our palate after a hard stint of cocktails and appetizers in the club (yes, I’ll get around to the food porn shots from the lounge soon enough).

Our first dish was one of our favourites.

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A Deconstructed Caesar Salad

Baby Romaine, White Anchovy, Parmesan Fluff, Brioche Twinkie”.

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This went with a Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve, Chardonnay 2006. A slighty more established wine, with more fruit coming through. You can compare the 2006 (on the right) with the crisper 2007 on the left.

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The dish itself was a lot of fun. I like it when they rip things apart and put them back together. Sort of like Dr. Manhattan. (Full disclosure: yup, I like Scud's version of this best)

A lot of people were put off by the anchovy, but I loved the fishiness of it all. And the twinkie was a good way to do a crouton. When I have a caesar salad, my interest is taken by the anchovy and the croutons, and in this case Graham has brought these two up in your face. The effect is like having a caesar served to you as a bruscetta.

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The next pour went sideways, a Vintner’s Reserve, Pinot Noir 2006. Good flavour, lots of fruit, and, while my nephew, Clark, comments on the “barnyard funk” of pinots, I didn’t have a problem with this. As Jeff was saying, K-J benefits from a long cool growing season, natural acidity, and smaller berries, with intense flavours.

Our next dish was the corn soup.

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Sweet Corn Bisque

Garlic Marshmallow, Pepper Jam, Corn Nuts, Lime Crema

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Now – full disclosure here – I didn’t do the cooking class (which everyone I know says was a lot of fun), but I do have the recipes, or at least the ingredients:

  • Corn: 10 ears (whole, shucked)
  • Bell Peppers: 4 ea.
  • Chipotle Peppers: 1 ea. (dried)
  • Garlic: 4.5 oz. (5 cloves, peeled)
  • Egg Whites: .5 ea.
  • Glucose: 14.5 g.
  • Sugar: 115 g.
  • Water: 29 g.
  • Gelatin: 2.25 sheets
  • Corn Nuts: .5 cup
  • Crème Fraiche: .25 cup
  • Lime: 2 ea.
  • Salt: to taste

To put it all together, you’ll need to ask someone who was there (which means “not me”). Maybe Austin was there?

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The result, for me, was enjoyable enough, but it did feel a bit overly sweet for this staghe of the evening. I mean, hey!, I like marshmellows for a morning snack, too, and I could see a plan of working this after the salt in the anchovy from the Caesar, but it felt, well, too good for this stage of the evening.

But that’s just me.

Following this was a course of mixed reviews.

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Tomato Crusted Halibut

Zucchini Couscous, Smoked Eggplant, Caramelized Fennel, Basil Bubbles

Visually, this is a stunning dish. The blob-that-ate-Pittsburgh green of the basil foam; the clotted blood of the tomato over the pallid zombie-skin flesh of the halibut; and the organ-like vegetables peeking out from under the corpse…..okay, I should stop fixating on George E Romero.

Now I want to eat some brains.

It was a let-down, though. After staring at this dish, when I bit in I was overpowered by the tomato. I like halibut, and I’d been looking forward to the taste of the fish, but what I took away was the tomato, the fennel, the eggplant, and the basil. The couscous, which sounded neat, came over too salty.

The fish wasn’t there.

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Having said all that, the tomato and other strong flavours went well with the wine, a Grand Reserve, Merlot 2005.

I don’t share Paul Giamatti’s views on merlot. I find it good company for a lot of meals, and this was one of them. A well balanced merlot, nothing really over the top, but the right meal for this dish.

Later on, Michael Ginor would give me stick in the swimming pool for not remembering what I ate, but, having solid memories (with a slight alcohol whitewashing) of this dish, and the class notes, I would stick with what I’ve got here.

One thing I want to do in this post, as I made a bad attempt at last year, is to give credit to the people that came with the headliners.

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In the case of Graham, he brought with him Allison Mundell as his backup. As I said last year, I think these are people to track over the next decade.

Following the dawn of the dead, it was time to go for the guts.

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Barbecued Pork Belly

Cole Slaw, Potato Salad, Fried Pickles, Root Beer

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I will never argue with someone who serves me pork belly.

This was just right. Pull apart, no work to the eating. The cole slaw was just right, and the fried pickles were a delight.

I would love to reminisce over the root beer, but I honestly can’t remember it.

It was one of those nights.

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Part of that night was our next pour was the Grand Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 to go with the pig. A very solid cab that stood up well to the pork fat and the sauces on the dish. Good company for the dinner in question.

We came out of this into dessert.

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Movie Theater Extravaganza

Popcorn Gelato, Malt Balls, Twizzler Puree, Cracker Jack

If you’re going to give a dessert a title like this, then you should be willing to go over the top. I think the alcoholic red twizzler drizzle is one of the most fun things I’ve don in a long time.

As mentioned before, here’re the ingredients:

  • Microwave Popcorn: 1 bag
  • Egg Yolks: 12 ea.
  • Heavy Cream: 1 qt.
  • Twizzler Candy: 4 oz.
  • Malted Milk Balls Candy: 1 qt.
  • Pop Rock Candy: 5 ea. (individual pkgs)

This is a good, beat-you-into-the-stuffing-of-your-sofa sort of dessert (can I coin that phrase?). We always like it when a dish brings back memories, and this does just that.

Sticky memories, but still……

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With this we had the K-J Late Harvest, Chardonnay 2006. Not a bad finish. Sweet, a bit smooth, but not like some of the botrytis I’ve had, but still a good finish to the overpowering flavours in the dessert.

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Graham is one of those people I could spend a lot of time talking with. Okay, we’d probably be drinking too (at least I would). I took him on one of our topics, the matter of tipping, and I liked his response.

The question is, “do you tip out your kitchen, or, as waitstaff, is your compensation the tip?”

Graham’s take is that “a waiter is a waiter. He’ll come, he’ll go. But a chef shouldn’t be driven by the tips, he should be driven by the desire to be the best he can be, and have his own place.”

You can take the quotation marks there with a grain of salt (how many wines was that) but the gist of it was that Graham felt that someone working directly with food should be motivated more by the calling of what he was doing, than by mere lucre.

Okay, at the end of the day, lucre is good, but it’s the end result, rather than an incremental motivator.

Having talked with a number of successful professionals over the years (a topic outside of food, in general) this is the right attitude.

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October 6, 2009 – My Lunch With Paola Caosella

This was a joy.

And joy is contagious.

This is particularly impressive for the chef who has spent the most time in the air to get here, and who will be heading straight back to Brazil after this. She’s bright, happy, and just makes those about her happy.

Infectious.

Paola had a warm greeting for each and every one of us as the class formed up. Like her idol, Julia Child, she had a glass of wine in her hand, and was cheerfully firming up her station.

Her biography is a tale of migration. A young Argentinian who was cooking in Paris at the age of 18 at Le Grand Vefour with Guy Martin, and then Le Celadon and Le Bristol. Then the wind blows her back across the Atlantic to the coast of the Pacific to San Francisco and Zumi Café, and then she arrived in Sao Paolo and found her home was her old neighbor, Brazil.

In Brazil she worked with Francis Mallmann in Sao Paola for seven years, opening and staying with A Figueira Rubaiyat. She left here to open her own restaurant – Julia Cocina – named for Julia Child. This effort saw her earn Best New Chef in Sao Paulo 2004.

In 2007 she did a wanderjahr and travelled the jungles and the mountains of Brazil, coming back in 2008 to open Arturito, ‘named Best New Restaurant in Sao Paulo 2008 by ‘Folha de Sao Paulo’”.

Not bad.

Our menu today was very simple, and very accessible, which is what I want at times, as it’s good to have something to bring home right away. The plan is to represent the flavours of South America, not just one locale.

First up was Ceviche. How can you go to South America and not do ceviche?

CEVICHE

Ingredients: Ceviche

  • 1 kilo Extremely fresh White fish (good to be eaten raw)
  • 1 kilo fresh and juicy limes (Manao)
  • 1 kilo red onions
  • 100 gr. Maldon sea salt
  • 200 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 200 gr. Chillies (spicy and perfumed, any colour or shape)
  • 200 gr. Fresh cilantro (very fresh and crispy)
  • 100 gr. Fresh garlic
  • fresh avocados
  • sweet potatoes
  • Sea urchin (If it’s possible to get, alive ) 1 per person

Ingredients: Leche de Tigre

  • 100 gr White fish
  • 200 ml water
  • sea salt
  • 15 gr fresh ginger
  • 15 gr fresh chillies
  • 50 gr White onions
  • 50 gr celery
  • 2 garlic cloves

As she says, “10 years ago South America became famous”. In many ways, this was deserved recognition. But with recognition comes abuse, and there has been a lot done under the cover of Nuevo Latino that should just shouldn’t happen. Things that have just been “not always right.”

“Mango chimichuri should not be forgiven.”

There are certain rules, strictures, that should be followed; primarily because they've worked. She's taken the time to travel her adopted Brazil, and has studied what there is, and why it's there. And, refreshingly, she's not glowing about all of it. But she's done her homework, and it's made her a better chef.

So, let's get down to business.

Working with our fish, we have the option of either cubing, or sashiming (should that be sashimi-ing?). The Japanese tradition in South American is strong enough that there is a lot of technique you’ll see crossing over.

Tila lito is an interesting term. Throw it away. Otherwise cook it quickly. This sounds like the philosophy behind horumon. Take the parts you’d be embarrassed to serve to a guest, and do something with them.

Near the head and the tail you’ll find these parts. Don’t try and use them for the ceviche. For that you want fresh, fresh fish (and never use anything frozen – although I might argue this case with regards to tuna and salmon).

No, take these rough parts and make up the leche de tigre.

Another key point here is to keep the fish cold. When Paul Rodriguez and Michael Reidt had touched on ceviche years back, that was mentioned, but it wasn’t as critical. With Paola, it is an unbending rule, and we’ll see how she works that.

Our ingredients for the cooking are standard. Chopped red onions, lime juice (whose acidity will ‘cook’ the fish), and coriander.

Ginger, garlic – these are options, and can add to the complexion of the dish. I’ve enjoyed playing with galangal and kaffir lime leaves and such, and it’s this ‘play’ you have in ceviche that makes it such a great dish (and so easy to abuse).

With the chilis, her handling parallels David Thompsons. She boils her chilis 3 times to take away the roughness. She wants that flavour there, but she doesn’t want it to overpower and ravage the rest of the dish. Mellow it out, and then blend it into oil and water.

And now, when you start to deal with water, use ice. People will go to a lot of trouble to keep the ingredients cool in the fridge, and then leave them out on the couner top to heat up. By using ice you can keep the temperature down. Use the ice, and just a few drops of water.

And a touch of salt.

For the leche put the ingredients in a food blender and work them painfully for 5 minutes. Take the result and press it through a sieve, and the put it in the fridge for later.

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Now, leche de tigre can be a wonderful thing on its own. Add in some alcohol (pisco), and you have a good cure for hangovers. Marinated fish, lime, condiments, and alcohol all get me excited.

And it’s an alternative to Viagra, they say?

Our fish, the lime juice, red onions, salt, oil, chillies, garlic, leche and cilantro have all been cheerfully sent to the fridge to party for half an hour.

Paola recommends sweet and crunchy dishes on the side with this, and she prepares some sweet potatoes, boiling them with the skin in salted water, and then slicing them up for a pan fry to harden the sides.

She also mentions that ceviche is good with corn. This fits with Rodriguez, who recommends popcorn on the side.

In ways, ceviche should be a Thai dish. There’s that search for balance of salt, spice, sour, and sweet that you’re looking for.

As she tastes it, she constantly adds in ice, keeping the temperature down so that the fish is approachable.

The celery and olive oil are more options for you. This dish is very much about tasting your way to where you want to be.

To cream it out, Paola does an avocado cream. She puts her avocados to the blender, with the juice of one lemon and some sea salt, working it down to a puree. If this seems like too much work (too much work?) then you could make do with just a slice of avocado on the side. You need something that will smooth out the harshness of the lime.

On this same note, we add the uni (sea urchin), giving it that baby’s diarrhea texture (my description, not hers).

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To plate, she spoons the avocado into the dish, sets a slice of sweet potato on the side, and then ladles in the ceviche.

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It’s a pretty dish, and a very satisfying one. The fish, kept chilled, has a very good chew to it, and the flavours of ginger and garlic and onion are all layered upon each other.

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I must say, it’s been a media fest at the cooking classes so far. The cameramen are even fighting with each other – “hsst”s and “krap”s about the place as they jockey for positions.

Next – tomorrow (I promise) – The Joy of Meat – (Paola continued)

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Quite a wealth of information here, Peter. Keep it coming.

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October 6, 2009 – The Look of Love - more of lunch with Paola Carosella

(Yes, I’m on a Bacharah jag jus now)

There is a look a woman can have. A look of perfect contentment, of bliss. The look of a mother cradling her child. Men go to war over that look.

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Paola had that look as she cradled the rib-eye roast in her arms.

The Argentine is a country of carnivores, and they care deeply about their meat.

What we had before us today was 240 day grain fed rib-eye. This meant a cow that, after it’s first four months of relative freedom, had spent 8 months at rest, without walking.

Blocking the cow had driven the production of fat, and this, depending upon the breed, would lead to the marbling, to the distribution of fat in the meat, that we find so attractive.

The allure of beef is this inner muscle fat. As you cook the meat this fat will melt in, and give that beautiful butter we crave in our meat.

Yes, the vegans amongst us will cringe, but I understand what she means, especially after my stints in Korea (and family dinners around the MI unit). It goes far back in our history, to the time of heroes. If you read The Water Margin (the 108 Heroes) you’ll find every meal a happy gathering about a kilo or four of meat.

But, I stray.

Let us consider our ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1.6 kg rib eye
  • 25 gr Sea Salt

For the chimichurri

  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup chopped Rosemary leaves
  • ½ cup chopped thyme leaves
  • ½ cup chopped orégano leaves
  • 2 tbs sea salt
  • 2 tsp chillie flakes chopped
  • ¼ cup Best quality red wine vinegar
  • 2 cupes extra virgem olive oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 chopped garlic cloves

The meat you’ve already been introduced to, above. As for the salt, look to roughly 10 gm per kilo. And, please, please, don’t use normal table salt. Use sea salt.

But first, as you would expect, the meat should be at room temperature. Paola, would ask us to allow the roast some four hours out of the fridge, to have an internal temperature of around 10 to 15 degrees C.

And, “you should never buy frozen meat. Ice removes the flavour.

My other admired female, Yoonhi, agrees. Freezing crystallizes the water molecules, and this in turn tears the cellular structure, and allows the juices to drain. If you freeze quickly, faster, then the smaller the ice crystals, so the less the damage. And you want your freezer extremely cold.

Myself, I’ve found it not a bad technique, with horrible meat (such as Egyptian water buffalo) to work this trick the other way around, and freeze the meat in the marinade, allowing a replacement of flavours (trust me, once you eat Cairene water buffalo, you’ll understand).

She advises that, if you marinade, do so for up to six hours, no longer.

For a perfect roast, preheat your oven to 200 degrees centigrade, and then roast the meat for 35 minutes per kilo. Remove it, and allow to rest for 25 minutes per kilo.

An alternative is to cook the meat for 20 minutes per kilo, let rest, and then finish closer to the meal.

And to keep warm prior to the meal, then 50 degrees C is what you need.

She gazes down like the Madonna at the roast “I think it’s beautiful”.

Up to this point, we’d been politely sipping upon the chardonnays – Bodega Zapata Alamos Chardonnay 2007 and Bodega Zapata Catena Chardonnay 2007. The first very clear and crisp (and a nice opener with the ceviche) the second more fruit forward and flavourful. A richer wine. These would be quite nice on a sunny day with the Andes in my back yard.

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But my friend was here. A Malbec. I’ll talk more later on Malbecs (just try and keep me quiet), but, while I was happy to see this, I didn’t find it as aggressive and carnivorous as others I’ve enjoyed. It was a kinder, gentler Malbec, and I don’t know if I agree with that.

Let us now consider farofa. Traditionally, this is a dish of manioc flour. It’s grated and the starch is cooked as popcorn. This is, of course, the basis of tapioca.

When the conquistadoras came, they found the diet in South America to be manioc and dried fish. In North Brazil the manioc can be poisonous, and to avoid this dramatic draining of the gene pool they hit upon the idea of grating the manioc and fermenting for a week.

Paola, in her journeys, had spent some time in the Amazon on this local diet.

It’s not tasty”.

So, going to her (and much of the Argentine’s) roots, she falls back upon wheat flour. She uses bread, toasts and crumbs it, and cooks with clarified butter and sea salt.

Here we are cooking it as a side for meat and vegetables, where it is always a simple side dish, but it doesn’t take much to turn this side into a meal – just some fatty bacon and onions, and there you are.

Sweetly she looks up from the farofa to talk of her tomatos.

I like to burn things.”

“I burned some tomatoes this morning. Forty minutes they cooked, until they were sweet and soft, and serve those with some balsamic.

When you know how to burn things you gon’t get the toast, you pull out the sweet.” For her, this is pushing just to edge to get the best you can.

And then we must talk about the chimichurri and the myths that surround it’s name.

She recalls how James Curry, an Englishman, came to South America to survey the trails, and how Jimmy had his curry for the days in the interior. Admittedly, “it is probably an Indian name, but this is a good story.

For her, an excellent dish is provolone cheese grilled with Chimichurri, a mix of Italy and Argentina.

To make the chimichurri, mix everything together, and let it rest for at least an hour. The longer the better. A week is probably a bit too long……

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Ah, carne!” she applauds, as Danilo Aiassa brings forth the roast.

I find out later that Paola is not a women to be gainsaid. She’d originally been slated to do an octopus dish - the recipe for which I’ll bring up later, if you’re good – but she hadn’t been content with the octopod. And so she had settled upon beef, true to her roots. Likewise, she had found and commandeered the wood oven in the Four Seasons for cooking this meat.

She is right. This is beautiful meat. As she leans over to heft the browned flesh, you admire the play of muscle with muscle.

She checks it, and a slight moue appears. “This needs 10 to 15 minutes more. But this is the tyranny of the cooking class.”

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I’m not complaining. To have good, rare beef and a Malbec is my idea of a proper lunch.

A dish I can do at home. What more can any man ask?

Our meal in hand (or gullet) we turn to dessert.

Dulce de Leche Flan

Lemon & Orange Scented Yogurt

Ingredients

MILK AND SUGAR REDUCTION



  • 2 litres whole Milk
  • 1 kilo sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean

THE FLAN

  • 200 gr sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 14 large egg yolks

THE LEMON ORANGE CREAM

  • 1 litre fresh cream ( Best quality)
  • 200 gr fresh plain yogurth ( greek style or similar)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 fresh Orange ( to grate the skin)
  • 4 fresh sicilian lemons ( yelow lemons) to grate the skin

Tools and special equipment:

  • A convection oven available for the time of plating
  • A White 20 cm shallow plate ( aprox)
  • Serving tools: fork and spoon
  • A Thermomix
  • A convection oven to be available for 5 hours
  • 6 X ( 2 litres) loaf pans ( Le creuset) ( ceramic, iron, or inox Will work ) to be caramelized and then used to cook the flan in it. ( or similar pans to cook a flan caramelized and “bain Marie” )

First, you put your milk, sugar, and vanilla beans into the pan, and let that simmer over a very gentle fire.

Now, you could stay here the whole time (up to two hours), but “we’re very lazy”. And so they invert a shallow bowl, and put that over the dish. As the gasses come, the bowl will merrilly tap and agitate the liquid.

“Chick a chang!”

Let this cool.

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Now, for the flan, melt the 200 gr of sugar into the ½ cup of water. Boil it until you achieve that golden colour. Then tilt the caramel into a pan to cover the bottom.

Then whisk your eggs and yolks happily to combine, and then add the Dulce de leche while you’re whisking.

Much of the rest was not done before us. Or, if it was, I was distracted by something shiny. So I’ll lift the material from the notes.[/]

“Páss the resultant mix through a strainer into that caramel lined pan, and put the loaf pan into a baine Marie and bake for 3 hours at 130 degrees C. Remove it from the baine Marie, and allow to cool overnight. “

“To unmold, loosen the sides of the flan with a knife, and pass the bottom of the loaf pan over a flame for 20 seconds to help dissolve the caramel.”

To make the lemon orange cream, we whisk together the cream, vanilla bean, and yogurt, and then add the zest of the Sicilian lemons and the orange.

“I’ve been making this dessert for 18 years. It’s for breakfast, lunch dessert, tea or dinner.”

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And it is a fine flan. You can cut it, and it still stands, tall and proud (although shaking slightly).

This is a very good lunch. While I was disappointed with the Malbec (slightly) the meat and ceviche were both excellent, and took me back to nights in Bogota.

I’ve got to get to Brazil and Argentina now.

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Next – Luke Dale-Roberts

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I'll be traveling the next few days, and it's unlikely I'll post during that time (at least, not on anything other than lounge food).

I'd like to mention that the next chef, Luke Dale-Roberts, who's been working in Capetown, is due to be in Seoul next week at Lotte. Pierre Gagniare will also be in residence, in his restaurant a few floors above. If anyone's in Seoul, I heavily recommend seeing what this young chef can do.

Is that a spoiler or what? Still, I'd hate for anyone to miss the chance just because I'm too lazy about writing.

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October 6 – A Short Break

We were exhausted by the eating and drinking. This is a matter of some concern. It was only halfway through day 2.

Normally, Yoonhi and I would plow through events like this, but we were already feeling short of breath.

Was it the sudden onset of excess so soon after the London trip? I’d hate to think so. I contemplated this over a Chilean cabernet sauvignon, while waiting for Yoonhi to return from Dr. Feet. She’d done Lavanna the day before, and her mission was to try and match every one of my cooking classes with a spa of some sort.

Myself, I don’t see the attraction. I can go into any number of bars and get pummeled in a similar fashion for free.

To each their own.

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I also contemplated what I have dubbed “Inspector Poirot’s Moustache”. My friend, CL, had pointed this out to me on our classroom table yesterday, and I’d absconded with one from the table setting.

I caught David Thompson in the lobby with this in my pocket (you should see what else I carry about) and he and CL both had referred to this as a very old snack of the Thai, something found around Ayutthya. A bean, heavy in starch, that’s boiled three times. If anyone wants to step in with the name, please feel free, as I gleaned this information on the fly and didn’t get a good transliteration..

I shook off this reverie and set out for my early evening ritual. Shooting food in the club.

My club time is always started with a shot of the food on display. Tonight Shintaro was doing the spread, and Sawada Satoshi’s food is always worth digging into. (“Exhausted”, did I say?)

But I was beaten to the selection by a Japanese lady and (I will assume) her daughter. The young miss gave one of those performances of uber-cute that only the Japanese can get away with

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“Eeeeh! Mochi!”

(Macha flavoured mochi on red bean paste)

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“Tempura! Tempura! Tempura!”

(Well, the one on the right is tempura shrimp with morning glory and roasted chili sauce. Beside it on the left is Moo Thod Ka-Tieam Prik Thai – deep fried marinated pork with garlic and pepper; and next to that is Tod Man Poo – fried breaded crab meat, garlic, coriander root, egg, and onion)

“Maki!”

(Futo maki)

Man, it's like an episode of Azumanga Daioh.

It’s easy to forget, as he’s quite reserved, that Sawada san is one of the longest running chefs here. I remember back in 2001 coming out for the 1st anniversary of Shintaro – big casks of sake, brilliantly flamboyant langoustine dishes, and a playfulness with Thai ingredients that he still retains. He does very good Japanese, while having a great comfort with his local ingredients.

In particular, when he does a spicy roll, I know I won’t be disappointed.

Behind me I heard the gasping of the young lady as she hit the spice.

I take my entertainment where I can.

Next – back to our regularly scheduled programming of Luke Dale-Roberts (once I find my notes in my hand carry luggage here)

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October 6, 2009 – Dinner with Luke Dale-Roberts, La Colombe, Cape Town

We were to be back in Madison for this evening.

This dinner was a matter of circumstance and coincidence. Those are always interesting combinations.

What had happened was that I’d agonized over this evening. Which one to cover, and which one to miss? This was all further complicated by the additions to the schedule that had made it harder to take in all of the lunch classes.

Finally, tormented, I had chosen Christine Manfield.

As fate would have it, however, her dinner was booked out by Etihad – one of the sponsors - and I shifted myself to Madison and Luke Dale-Roberts.

His resume had read well enough. Trained in Switzerland, worked under Kevin Hopgood (a scion of the Roux brothers), moved out the Sydney to take up the Pacific Rim stylings, and in 2000 went to work for Accor Hotels opening up restaurants in London and Asia for them.

And then, in 2006 he moved again, settling down as the executive chef in Capetown’s La Colombe. There he’s done steady work, bringing what he’s learned to the table, opening up Asian themes around French techniques. We would find a lot of Japanese influences in the dinner here tonight, as well as some Korean notes.

As you’d expect (elsewise he wouldn’t be here) he’s packed up a number of awards; the one that caught my eye being San Pellegrino’s inclusion of La Colombe in their 50 Best Resaurants Awards for2009.

Our wines would be South African. An interesting selection from Springfield Estate, established by the French immigrants the Bruwers, who landed in the Cape some 300 years back. This would prove interesting, their selection strong on traditional French grapes, with not a pinotage to be seen.

We started well enough with me just making into through Aqua into Madison’s air conditioning with only a mild drizzle pouring off of me. Someday I’ll acclimatize.

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Somebody elegant put a glass of Prosecco Spumante Valdobbiadene in my hand, and my core temperature started to come under control as I waited for my young femmes to arrive (M and Yoonhi, to be precise). Prosecco’s not a bad start, as the low alcohol content leaves plenty of room for the headliners to come later.

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One aspect (among several) that I like about Springfield’s wines are the names. Playful, but still related to the art of winemaking. This first one was Life From Stone, a sauvignon blanc from 2009.

On its own, this comes across as a little empty on the palate. I feel more in terms of minerals than of fruit, whereas their notes online refer to passion fruit (and an interesting comment of flint and gunsmoke). I’ll withhold judgement for the food.

As a note, the minerality of this (and perhaps that’s their point in the naming of the wine, coming from their rockiest slopes) could make it a good choice with snails in the future.

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Our first dish was an Asian Style Beef Tartar, Coriander Pesto and Hoisin Dressing

I doubt you will ever hear me say anything bad about raw meat. There was a tangle of vermicelli to give crunch, some micro greens, and just a hint of hoisin in the dressing to give salt and tang. A beautifully marbled meat, this is the sort of cut that you want to use in a tartar, where you can taste all the goodness in the flesh. As with Paola’s ceviche, there’s avocado in here to enhance the rich, fatty flavours.

The wine worked well enough with this, the fat in the meat, the coriander spice, and the hoisin filling out the emptiness I’d commented on before. The mineral backdrop gave a slight harshness against these flavours that woke the wine up.

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Next was M and Yoonhi’s favourite dish, a Foie Gras “Mie Cuit”, Jerusalem Artichoke Relish, Espresso Reduction, Almond Puree and Apricot Kernel Oil

This was a very, very good dish. Like the wines, playful, with the interleaving of the chutney with the foie, and some quail meat as well. A dab of espresso to wake you up, and the comfort of almonds in the puree. Add in the crunch of some pistachios added in, and you have a wonderful thing. Duck – smoked – underneath, to give a bit of “properness” to the serving. We all felt there should have been more espresso (it was good).

We said that about the espresso in quite an excited manner, if I recall correctly.

With every bit of this dish you like it more. The sweetness grew, overpowering the initial salts. I admire a dish which can evolve its taste as you eat.

Likewise, the sauvignon blanc, which has carried through to this dish, is opening up more, and we’re starting to pick up more of the fruit in the wine now that we have more fat on palates.

Looking to the recipes, which my friends had annotated, the Jerusalem artichokes ( a tuber from a North American sunflower varietal) are roasted like potatoes, then the pan is deglazed with white wine and white wine vinegar, caramelized and reduced to a syrup. Gelatine leaves are used to get the setting for layering with the foie.

The espresso reduction we admired with such agitation was a mix of espresso, balsamic, port, and sugar (1 double, 250 ml, 500 ml, and 200gr respectively).

And if you want to do the almond puree, take ¼ kg of baked almonds, a litre of milk, 4 cardomoms, and then boil for 30 minutes, remove the cardomoms, strain, and blend to a puree.

We dallied over this, until the next wine was poured, a Wild Yeast, Chardonnay, 2005. This stood better on its own than the Sauvignon Blanc, a functional chardonnay, with an open nose and the butter and toast you’d expect.

But the wine faded out of sight in my notes as the next course was one of my favourite dishes of the week (and this was a very good week).

Butterfish “Miso Yaki”, Carrot and Ginger Emulsion, Warm Scallop Sushi, Char Grilled Asparagus

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Inside the seasoned rice ball is nestled a dollop of fried scallop, diced cucumber, coriander, and miso and soy. The ball was then steamed to warm it up just before assemblage.

Good rice with that ‘surprise’ in the middle of shellfish and salt – a very good combination.

One might complain that the “sushi” overpowers the headliner, the fish. But that would be churlish. Everything here works well together.

The fish has been marinaded for up to 3 days, then the marinade is washed off and the fish grilled under a salamander until golden. (Yoonhi argues about this, as she thinks of the salamander as a timing utensil, rather than a cooking utensil. Serena, of course, holds out for the lizard).

The carrot and ginger emulsion takes its colour from the carrots, and it’s tang from he ginger. And then there’s a good load of butter in there to give it some body. Stock from the fish bones and more of the sake are in there, too.

I’d be very content with any element of this dish just on its own, but having the three together is a very fine thing, showing off Luke’s skills with the handling of fish, with rice, and with sauces.

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Next up were the reds. They were pouring The Work of Time, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, 2002, a very French approach to a red, and with a ‘hot’ nose to it. They’d been working on this wine for a decade, they say, getting to a point where they were happy with the results.

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The second red was the Whole Berry, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, which they consider their top wine. As with the Work of Time, this has a nose to it. A good cab, and probably a (slightly) better match to the dish to come.

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Duo of Veal

Fillet and Breads

Pancetta, Morels, Peas and mint

Now that I think on it (and read my notes) my preference was for the cab with the veal meat, but the blend for the sweetbreads.

Fresh peas and snow peas, with their perfect match of mint, the reduced jus and morels, and the aroma from the rosemary garnish. Imagine the solidity of the peas against the butter of the breads. Rich in the mouth, just begging to be tumbled about by the wine.

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Our dessert was Vanilla Cream, Salted Caramel Popcorn, Apple Tatin. Another good combination of textures, from the soft tatin, the brittle chocolate, the cream (a flavour and a texture), and the crunch of the Crackerjack.

The caramel popcorn is a mix of corn and peanuts, prepped as a brittle and then broken up. The cream is a straightforward thing of egg, sugar, cream, milk, vanilla, and the judicious use of a blowtorch to remove any bubbles from the surface.

And the apple tatin is simply caramelized apple topped and baked with puff pastry, coming out, as M says, with the “soft sponginess of a breast implant.”

It’s a pity there wasn’t a dessert wine to go with this, but I made do with refills of the chardonnay and the cabernet.

I enjoyed talking with Luke. His time with Accor has given him exposure to a lot of my favourite places – Korea in particular – and it’s fun trading notes on these places. He’s more or less come to rest in Capetown, and is enjoying it very much – the people, the ingredients, and the wines. Not that he’s stopped travelling - I mentioned in the earlier posts about his trip to Lotte in Seoul. (If anyone has any notes on how that went, please jump in!)

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We finished with petits fours, of course, and another refill on the cabernet.

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As I started with, I’d fallen into this dinner almost by chance, and it had worked out very well. Excellent technique, and very well balanced flavours marked all of the dishes. A very Japanese sensibility in much of what he was doing, married to French methods. In some ways I was reminded of Tetsuya Wakuda.

And the wines were – for me – an eye opener. I have the bad habit of holding firm to my preconceptions, in this case that South Africa is only about pinotages. Such was not the case. The Bruwers are doing very nice things at Springfield Estate (and my friends who’ve recently moved to Jo’burg are also proving to me that there’s a very interesting – and affordable – world down there).

That all said, Yoonhi and I retired to the room with the remains of our wines (she was settling with the Wild Yeast Chardonnay).

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It would be an early morning. A tour of the market with David Thompson.

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October 7 - Bpai Shopping

Mornings will be the death of me.

That said, I do what I can to avoid them.

Originally, this was going to be a 7:00 a.m. start. Thankfully, someone came to their senses and rescheduled for 9:30.

There were about 8 of us for the tour (I say “about” as there might have only been 7 – I don’t count well this early). David Thompson leading our group on a trip to Or Tor Kor.

In addition, we also had our entourage of video and still camera people, representatives from the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT), and a print journalist or two.

In terms of body mass, you could say it was a good balance.

I’d been wondering where we would go, and Or Tor Kor was at the top of the list. With it’s wide aisles and solid footing it’s easily the most accessible market in Bangkok, and has become a regular stop on my visits. Klong Toey would’ve been a colourful alternative, but with the low level urban warfare that was on-going down there (“business conflicts”) the TAT probably would prefer we stayed away.

As a note, you won’t see much here on the local cow products. I came across some of David’s deprecating comments on Thai beef (“tough”) just the other night when I was seeing how he does panaeng curry in his book. It’s good to see he’s consistent. The beef produced in this country isn’t one of the reasons people keep coming back.

But the seafood and produce more than make up for this deficiency.

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Unpacked from the vans we started off on the seafood side. David took some time to torment the blue-armed prawns.

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Big, meaty things, with the one extra-long blue arm, giving lie to the law of symmetry in nature. There’s a joy in the tactile nature of a fresh, Thai market.

I’ll limit my shots here, as I’ve done this before with Tim Butler , and I’ll be doing it again whenever I can return to the Spring Break series.

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Let’s look to the fecundity of fishes on offer. Long narrow ones, almost more of an eel, but with that flat headed look.

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And these snub nosed roseatte critters.

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Not that you’ll recognize everything. Especially not once it’s been pasted for the filling for hor mok (that attractive mush in the bowl back there…..I should make some hor mok talay soon. I wonder what David’s recipe looks like?)

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And, bright orange in the foreground are bags of tomalley, if you have a need for some extra. I think there was some fish bile about, too.

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Or you can have your crab lungs and brains tastefully available on ice.

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Meanwhile, other dear crabs aren’t looking too happy about the bondage fetish thing.

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This, I believe, was skate tail – dried and bundled up like fans.

We moved from here onto the produce side.

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Fresh durian isn’t going to be passed up, of course. Peeled and prepped for the discerning gourmet.

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Which also raised the mango question that Prasantrin (Rona) had brought up. “Which is better? Thai or Filipino?” David’s answer was quite appropriate.

“Seeing as how I’m in Thailand, and I’m surrounded by Thais, I’m going to say that I prefer Thai mangos.”

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I loved these green gourds. They looked like something Boris and Natasha would make use of.

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And this country is in no shortage of herbs and greens.

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You can see a bit of the posse up there, camera straps dangling. It’s rather interesting having the tables turned and having the lenses on us for once (“Quick, the fat white guy is picking up a leaf! Get a shot!”).

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Here’s a question for the audience. Of the items in this shot, how many are native to Thailand?

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Baby corn and moist, translucent fungus.

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You know I’m not going to let you get away without a couple of mushroom shots.

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One thing we weren’t able to find was som saa, a Thai orange with a distinct smell which is crucial if you’re going to make meek rob in the traditional style. There’d been a rumour that it was in season, but when our scouts returned it was to report that the last one had been sold. They’ve become increasingly difficult to find these last few decades, and some of my friends have taken to going up to Uthai Thani and dealing directly with farmers there to secure their supply.

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Moving from the raw to the cooked, or at least the really, really dried, we find enough dried fish to satisfy most anyone (except for a Korean, perhaps. That place still takes the prize for dehydrated sea animals).

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And from the dried, we move into the soaking, hunks of fish sitting about in deliciously evil looking broths.

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And don’t forget the rotting. Tim Butler had a good point, and David agrees that one of the important factors in Thai food is the fermentation. Without that, a certain characteristic, a hollowness, creeps into the food. There’s an ongoing war between health inspectors and Asian chefs throughout the West that has driven many into furtive, underground fermenters.

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Here we see some fried pork to get my mouth watering; hor mok splattered with with coconut cream; sunny little eggs, and more wet stuff.

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We started to load up on things for lunch. As a drink, I went for the tiger herbal, which I’d seen before but hadn’t gotten around to drinking. This was pleasant enough, fairly thick, and with the tang and some of the earthiness I associate with Chinese medicinals.

More important, it was cold. I was just about in free flow by now, with my body crying out for fluids.

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The Thai always have such beautiful colours. Pink, yellow, lime green. The sort of stuff you can see from satellite. But my attention here was on the bamboo tubes used to cook sweet sticky rice inside. These are a wonderful thing that I remember from my Cambodian days.

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And, speaking of sticky rice, David was collecting an assortment of coloured rices for us from the coloured rice lady. What is the Thai name for this stuff, again? Is it another form of khao mart, just with more colour (I’m used to the simple white fermented rice}.

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Things on sticks are also a safe bet at any time. Good, soft pork, and chicken as well.

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And you’re all aware of my love affair with sai krok. Look at how they just glisten with the pig fat.

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David shares this admiration, and considers this stand to have some of the best sai krok to be had here.

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And I stopped to admire the pad thai lady, hard at work on her griddle. I need one of these.

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Back at the tables we settled into lunch. Sausages, as I’d mentioned, were the immediate center of my attention.

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There was (I believe) a pork stir fry with red curry sauce and a wealth of eggplants.

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And there was catfish fired with beans. In the back there is the plate of sweet glutinous rice.

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Technicolour is a good word for this. The pale blue is achieved through the use of a certain flower – “anchan”? I’ll have to hunt that one down.

David, for his part, finds blue particularly unsettling as a food colour. I’m certain that Hitchcock would be very happy to hear this. As I recall, the director had done one meal with all of the food dyed blue just to unnerve his guests.

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We had a nice little oyster omelet, a jumble of egg and batter around the bits of warmed through oyster.

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And there was a bowl of fish maw soup to be tried. The meat doesn’t do much for me, but the broth is excellent.

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And our skewers of pork were ready for us, with a peanuty sauce and condiments on the side.

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And, finally, when you thought we were running short on pork, some Chinese red pork to settle our stomachs for the ride back.

After the meal we did a bit of final shopping. I forgot to take pictures, but we did also stop by the padeak lady. Fermenting fish paste, still alive and bubbling in the jars. I bought a container, and hoped for the best on the airplane trip home. When they heard I was traveling with it, they took it back and rewrapped it with even more care.

A coconut for more fluids, and then we were heading back home.

Driving the bus was full of amiable chit chat regarding Europe, Asia, and Australia, and about David’s forthcoming book – which should now be out in the Australian edition. North America and Europe will have to wait for 2010. This one will be on street food, and will be a bit more “portable” than Thai Food. Certainly it will be less encyclopedic, as David was interested in getting the book out sometime this century, and the research and writing that went into the massive Thai Food.

A pleasant morning, albeit a hot one for me. I don’t know that any of us learned anything we didn’t already know regarding the market and the food, but there’s something to be gained in having the opportunity to see things through the eyes of someone who’s as passionate about Thai food as David is.

Except for the beef, that is.

Next – some wining

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Which also raised the mango question that Prasantrin (Rona) had brought up. “Which is better? Thai or Filipino?” David’s answer was quite appropriate.

“Seeing as how I’m in Thailand, and I’m surrounded by Thais, I’m going to say that I prefer Thai mangos.”

In other words, Filipino. :laugh:

Thanks for asking!

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October 7 – Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Once I was back at the Four Seasons, I went looking for Yoonhi.

I found her next door at the Peninsula Plaza.

I’d been told long ago that the beef noodle soup here – in the central courtyard restaurant up the stairs – was some of the best around. Yoonhi had scented it out, and was busy on a bowl.

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Unfortunately, I was too late for a decent shot, and I knew better than to phone ahead and tell her to refrain from eating until I got there (“Can you say ‘pain’?”).

As with any good noodle soup, the main story is in the broth. True, exemplary noodles can add subplots, and the bobbing about stuff are character studies in and of themselves. But, primarily, it’s the broth that makes the telling.

This broth – beef based – was full and dark, with notes of anise and chili, and overriding all a strong, rich beef flavour, full of intrigue and passion, working its way to a satisfying finale .

I just wish I’d been there for the start of the story.

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October 7, 2009 – A Taste of the Thienponts

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8 wines.

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Ninety minutes.

One wine maker, one local agent, one F&B, one manager (oh, and David Thompson dropped by for a few minutes before the doors were opened. “You’re here as well? You do get around.”)

I’d been told that this tasting was booked out within 35 minutes of opening reservations.

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A hush was on the room. Only the gurgle of Santa Vittoria being poured into the water glasses disturbed the expectant quiet.

Malcolm Ormond, the Four Seasons’ F&B, introduced Ron Batori from BB&B, who in turn introduced Francois Thienpont.

Ron describes the Thienponts as “one of the dynasties of Bordeaux. A family behind their wines, and these wines are some of the greats”.

The main talking point, to begin, is Le Pin, Francois’ cousin’s wine, and the “force” of this wine on the market, and on the making of wine. It’s a small property, with a very limited (and expensive) yield. Only 2 hectares, and with only 400 cases produced last year. Ron himself has only tasted the wine from the barrel, never from a bottle before.

“This tasting is a rare and unique opportunity.”

I’ll drink to that.

Francois talked of his family’s background in the business. The Thienponts have a history in the wine business. Originally they were Belgians, of Flemish stock from Etikhove, and parts of the family are still there in the wine trade. In 1920s their grandfather – Georges Thienpont, a wine merchant - had bought properties (Vieux Chateau Certan and Troplong-Mondot in Saint-Emilion) in France. “Vieux Chateau Certan was for business, and Troplong-Mondot for pleasure”, but grandfather, also being a broker, had to cut back in this portfolio in 1933 and the Saint-Emilion property was sold (but Certan stayed with them). Georges had 7 children, many of whom have continued in the wine business, giving the Thienponts admirable depth in the market.

Of the children,Francois’ father moved to Bordeaux after the Second World War and bought Chateau Puyguard, a small appellation. (The first major vintage of this was 1983).

And in 1979 some of the grandchildren brought out the first bottle of Le Pin, which is now a classic.

Since that time they have bought up many new estates, which his brothers have been looking after, while Francois does the travel. There are a lot of wines in the portfolio now, wines that are distinguished by the Thienponts reworking of the vineyards. They’d found much of the beauty (and profit) of French wine was gone, that what was good terroir was exhausted by mechanical and chemical workings; that what was once some of the best wine was now good for little other than bulk.

By taking over poorly performing wineries in Bordeaux, working with the terroir to “let each wine speak for itself” they felt that they could bring much of Bordeuax back to a point where it could compete again.

Much of this is the manifesto of the garagistes, the later movement of the 90s that saw a focus on smaller yields, less (or no) reliance on fertilizers, and a return to manual labour in the making of wines. But that would come later.

Our first wine was a Terra Burdigala 2006 (the year of the rains), a merlot with a touch of cabernet franc. A single vineyard product from good limestone terroir. No oak, just steel vats. Fine lees. 9 months and then it went in the bottle. The approach here was to “keep the wine’s freshness, its fruit”. You get that, and you pick up some of the minerality of the limestone.

Terra Burdigala itself is a negociant which Francois has established with Stephane Derenoncourt (who is another very interesting person). Their aim is to distribute the less “glamourous” estates, getting their products to market, and, as part of the mission described above, work with them to get them to put more care into the viticulture (the growing of the grapes), and look to produce excellent, affordable wines.

“The secret of Bordeaux is to have the most control of viticulture. Avoid the use of chemicals, tractors, treatment. Leave the soil alone. Don’t over work it. To get a soil back, you need 3 years.”

Ron Bartoli pointed out that this wine was all AOC Bordeaux – not a drop of bulk wine in it. Contrast that to many of the “fancy wines” which are carrying a percentage of bulk in them. Everything in this bottle came from that one vineyard. (They also have a delicious white, La Vigne d’Argent, Bordeaux Blanc, but we wouldn’t be tasting that today. Today was for the reds.)

That’s a lot of talking. Now that the wine’s been in the glass for awhile we go back and find a wonderful front. This improves well in the glass, the fruit coming out very fresh.

Terra Burdigala is the only wine of today’s that you can actually buy in Thailand. Given the punitive taxes, this makes sense, as these wines are the most accessible in terms of cost. I appreciate all the more that this tasting is being held.

Next Chateau Puygueraud 2004 – Nicolas’ wine – clay and limestone soils. 65% Merlot, and the rest is Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon, and some Malbec (from a rocky limestone patch). Mind you, this is the 2004. They dropped the Malbec in ‘06. The now do an alternate wine with 35% Malbec, 35% Cab Franc, and 30% Merlot.

“2004 is a classic”, says Francoise. “Full body, nice fresh finish. You take a glass, you want another one”.

Nicolas Thienponts’ wines are considered muscular. “This is a bigger wine than you would expect of this blend. The soil brings the power of the grape, the best tannins.“

Of interest to me, Francois pointed out that this winery made it into the famous manga – Les Gouttes de Dieu (Kami no Shizuku) in Volume 7.

(Les Gouttes de Dieu deserves a thread of its own, being – perhaps – the single biggest influence on the sharp increase in wine sales in East Asia that we’ve seen these last few years).

Following this we had La Gravette de Certan Vieux Chateau de Certan’s “second wine”, made from the fruit of young vines, generally of 10-25 years of age.

This wine was a “tremendous success, even if it’s a 2nd wine.” Nature didn’t help, with rain 2 weeks before the harvest. Grapes dropped to the ground and over 1000 cases were lost. How you did in this climate came down to your triage, and the nerve to throw away most of your grapes. If you put enough care into your wines, then there were some excellent bottles. This is an excellent bottle.

You get a spicy nose. The tannin has a sweetness in it. 60% Merlot and then Cab Franc and Sauvignon. The flavour of young vines sits well and lingers. Beautiful traces on the glass. I’d say something about “better legs than my wife”, but I’d just be getting myself in trouble.

Then a Chatea Pavie-Macquin 2004 – a grand cru, first growth. Nicolas took over this winery in1995 (and Derenoncourt had been involved here, too, since 1990). The key for this wine is to pick the grapes maturely, going for a gentle tannin development.

Understanding the microclimates of Bordeaux is critical in this work, says Francois. Move just 5 km in one direction, and you’ll have 20 days difference in the harvest.

Unlike Medoc – trapped in the 1855 Bordeaux Wine official classification – Saint- Emilion reclassifies every 10 years. Still, while this gives more opportunity than the static approach of Medoc (which only the Rothschilds have beaten) it’s “rare to have a wine with this small a history” (it only goes back into the mid-nineteenth century) get this grand cru classification. However, Nicolas had been a Professor of Latin, and had lectured at the Sorbonne. When the classification came up for this, he defended the wine to the jury in Latin, and was compelling enough to carry the day.

Francois was sorry to see the fighting going on in the wine industry now, with the industry following the American path of litigation and appeals. The entire matter is confusing for all, with no clear path forward at this time. No one wants to suffer the economic hit of being demoted, but if then the classifications become meaningless.

In contrast, “Pomerol is very democratic. No classifications. Hence ‘we don’t squabble’.”

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Back to the wine you see a very velvety fruit. A spicy, complex nose, and a powerful, clean finish. Refreshing. “And”, as Francois points out, “it has a long way to go still. If you compare this with the wine of 20 years ago, the technique was much less, with the wine musty”. This wine can take the oak.

Robert notes, too, that this is one of the most beautiful vineyards. The newer buildings have been fit in with the existing structures, and the space has been kept open.

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We turn to the Chatea Pavie-Macquin 1999 and, in contrast, it is deeper, and more complex. Parker said of this wine, that it was “not for the faint of heart”. It’s showing very well.

Vieux Chateau Certan 2006. This is the estate they kept when things went bad in 1933. It’s now under Alexandre’s administration. This Pomerol was well regarded for ages as the leading estate up until 1875, when neighboring Petrus took that position.

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2006 was a remarkable year. The grapes respond well to what you do. Considered on of the 3 best wines of that year in Bordeau. “To taste this wine now is an infanticide”. This is a wine that will do well over the next 25 years. And, spoken with that panache of Bordeaux wine makers – “It’s extremely expensive, but very good value”. They produced 4,000 cases in 2006. Tasting it you pick up an opulence to the tannins in the mouth.

Chateau Vieux Certan is situated on the plateau, crowded about by the flavours of Petrus and Le Pin. The soil runs from pure clay on the Petrus side, to gravel on the Le Pin side. Their work here is a matter of playing with different parcels. “Don’t look for power in this wine, but for finesse.”

We cut back in time, and Francois takes a sip of the Vieux Chateau Certan 2000, and then contrasts that to the 2001. The 2000 is now a little open , whereas the 2001 is still a little closed. This is 35% Cabernet Franc, and you taste a lot of the complexity and spice of that grape in this. This wine had been tasted here back in 2003, and at the time there’d been concern that it wouldn’t be ready, but it surprised everyone by showing very, very well.

A take a sip, and my notes state: “Oh! That’s nice. Silk. Velvet. Full mouth.”

I could get very, very comfortable with these wines.

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But next, and ultimately, came the headliner. The 2004 Le Pin. Francoise took us through the story of the wine, how, in 1979, there had been an old lady on this 2 hectare parcel, producing bulk in small volume (which just doesn’t sound like a good business model, to me). They felt the land was good, and the potential was there, so they bought the old lady’s vineyard, and set out to make a good wine from it.

In 1983, in one of those lucky moments that Fate hands out, Francois was in Texas with a couple of hundred cases. For a dinner, he brought along a bottle of the ’81 Le Pin.

Robert Parker was a guest at that dinner. You know the rest.

The technique isn’t an issue here. Basically, “It’s a good vineyard.” Really, the least intervention you do, the better you are.

This wine is Merlot on gravel soil, compared to neighboring Petrus which is Merlot on clay. What we take from this is an exotic nose of passion fruit and mango, with a softness to it. “This 2004 is a classic, with a long way still to go. When it ages properly it will be like a red burgundy”.

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Robert – lingering on his glass “This is one of the most incredible finishes”.

In 2008 they produced 400 cases. This year it will probably be around 350.

There’s a lot of smelling and small tastes being done. My notes are Hemingway at this point: “This is good.”

They did a vertical on Le Pin a little while ago. The 83 and 84 were still alive, still improving. Contrast this to 1987 when Francois was worried that the wines would be dead.

With time in the glass, the wine is tightening up a bit.

Back to Le Gouttes de Dieu, Le Pin made it into two of the volumes. The 1982 vintages was in Volume 3, and the original 1979 Le Pin was in Volume 9.

Looking ahead (or kind of, seeing as I’m so far behind in my writing) for this year, 2009, the harvest should be good. It’s been a great summer, with only 1 weekend of rain in August, and then some needed rain in September. The forecast at this time was for some more rain, but much of the harvest was in, with picking still underway in Pavie.

As with the Pavie-Macquin, they pick 2 weeks later here than their neighbors, giving the grapes more time on the vine.

Now they feel that they are in the renaissance of Bordeaux, an extremely exciting time. “I like to make wines for people who like to drink good wine. It’s a fight against low price and poor quality. France now has a reputation for musty, nasty wines. This is what we fight against.”

Fight the good fight, say I.

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October 7 – ‘Tis Meat, and Right to Do So – Paola Carosella’s dinner

After a hard day of eating and drinking, I felt that I deserved some relaxation. So I’d be eating and drinking some more.

Biscotti tonight. Paola would be cooking tonight, and, given how much I enjoyed her cooking class of the day before, I was looking forward to an evening of protein.

We began with something bubbly from the good people at Bodega Catena, Argentina.

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Alamos Sparkling Extra Brut. Not a bad sipping wine. It’s a 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Rather pleasant, not as biting as some other sparklings.

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Drinking and talking, I caught up on what I’d missed earlier, namely Luke’s cooking class at lunch. As expected, the fish with “sushi” was a big hit. The demo plates – allegedly - made it as far as some of my friends, and that was pretty much the end of them.

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As I’ve mentioned before, the open kitchen at Biscotti allows for a lot of window shopping in the run up to the meal. I peered over the edge and leered at the rib-eyes that were out and resting.

It was a good crowd this evening, with all of the seats and the long bar filled out. My friends in the staff advised that there were over 100 out here tonight.

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Paola was hard at work in the kitchen, getting the preparations in hand. I did ask her how to describe her food. Brazilian, Argentinian, pan-South American?

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“Tell people I am cooking the cuisine of Paola Carosella.”

Good enough answer for me.

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I really liked that lump of avocado in the ceviche.

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Sea Bass and Sea Urchin Ceviche

Catena Zapata Chardonnay 2007

The ceviche was just as good as it had been the day before. Some small differences, but not that I would consider either instance inferior to the other. Perhaps a little less avocado, and the fish was a bit more ‘cooked’ through. The sweet potato had been browned just a little bit more, but the tiger’s blood had that same rich, deep colour and tang.

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M pointed out that the Chardonnay worked exceptionally well with the tartness of the ceviche. I decided to think on it some more and asked for my glass to be refilled.

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Wood Oven Baked Cauliflower, Goat Cheese,

12 Year-Old Balsamic Vinegar, Pinenuts and Fresh Mint Salad

Catena Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

The next course was a pretty thing, with a wonderful smell from the mint and balsamic, and a satisfying crunch from the pine nuts. Underneath there’s the richness of the cauliflower supplemented by the fat in the cheves.

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The wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon, was good, but it was still too early in the day after the Pomerols for me to be kind to it. The nose felt hot, and the overall effect worked with the dish, but it would take some time for me to come down from the VCC and Le Pin.

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Black Olives Tapenade Crusted White Asparagus

Parmiggiano Reggiano Cheese and Quail Eggs

Catena Zapata Malbec 2007

This dish took my interest. The white asparagus, with highlights from the tapenade, was like a noodle dish. We separated strands and then just slurped them in, supplementing the flavours with bits of the cheese and a nibble of the quail yolk. A very pretty dish, and one that was fun, too.

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With the Malbecs came some discussion of the wines. The Catenas have been in Mendoza for over a hundred years, one of the pioneering vintner families in this region in these foothills of the Andes. They’ve been steadily working on their wines, and Nicolas Catena was voted the Decanter Man of the Year for 2009.

The vineyards are at altitude – three to five thousand feet. And this height in Mendoza is part of what has led the Malbec to be Argentina’s signature wine.

But, go back 130 years, and the Malbec grape was just a minor blending grape in France. In Mendoza, with the harder sun and only 8 inches of rain a year, the skin on the grape thickens up substantially, and give you the heavy, meat finish that I love so much, with the concentration of flavour.

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Still, I wasn’t as enchanted with this particular Malbec as with some others. It was a good match for the tapenade, but didn’t quite draw the carnivore out of me.

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But my inner meat-eater had nothing to fear. Paola was busy in the kitchen, with the highlight of the night ready to be served.

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240 Days Grain Fed Wood Oven Roast Black Angus Rib-Eye

Chimichurri & Farofa

Catena Zapata Alta Malbec 2006

This was a really, really good piece of meat. As she says, when you have meat like this, with the fat evenly spread out through the muscle, it’s a thing of joy.

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The next Malbec was an Alta, from higher up in their estates. This did more for me, with a strong, aggressive nature. Coupled with the meat, everything moved up a jolting notch.

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I really am a glutton. I asked them if they could spare me a bit more meat. We could hear the gasps from the nearby tables as the extra plate came through.

I have no shame.

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Farufo. I’m of mixed minds on this. On its own, it doesn’t do much for me, but I must admit that it’s not a bad side to meat, uncomplicating the issues of what vegetable to use (“Vegetables?” say my Kenyan friends. “Isn’t chicken a vegetable?”)

Of course, the idea of frying this up with chunks of bacon does have a certain attraction……

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I’m a happy man with two Malbecs in front of me.

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Dulce de Leche Flan

A faithful repeat of the lunch. Any comments would be redundant, if not superfluous.

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And Petits Fours, Stephane’s good night to each of us.

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Some cocktails in Aqua to settle us for the night, and then cheerfully off to bed.

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October 8, 2009 – Morning Is Broken

Well, not really broken. Slightly shattered, in a delicate sense, perhaps.

Breakfast, as they say, is the most important meal of the day eaten in the early hours (before 10) of the morning.

I’ve been remiss in my breakfast shots, as I’m generally too stunned to remember to bring the camera with me.

So, having had a sensible day of things on the 7th, I can give a brief review of a Bangkok breakfast.

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Yoonhi, as expected is having juk – congee, khao tam – there are any number of names for this signature dish of the Chinese diaspora. Yoonhi’s preference here is to add slivers of ginger, bits of dried shrimp, fried garlic, and some fresh spring onion.

For myself, I must admit I feel bad about scorning the omelet lady. Every morning she’s there, expectant, hoping I’ll order eggs. And every morning I disappoint her.

For me, breakfast is, first and foremost, coffee. Once a pot of that is out of the way (alongside some carrot and ginger juice, or some fresh pulped pineapple juice) I can contemplate diversions.

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But, given the choice, a diversion for me will be meat. They do a very nice house cured salmon, excellent hams, and suitably greasy charcouterie. This, with a bit of very pleasant bread, is almost (almost, I said) the perfect start for me.

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The trailing part of that ‘almost’, is, of course, Thai fruit. Pineapple. Does the pineapple taste this good anywhere else? Dripping in sugar, with that tease of tart behind it. Here, on the street, anywhere, I’ve yet to have bad pineapple in this country.

There, I feel better.

Next – David Kinch – Manresa Restaurant, Los Gatos, Kalifornia

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October 8 – David Kinch – Manresa Restaurant, Los Gatos, California

Two Michelin stars. In the Top 50 of Gourmet (RIP). Worlds 50 Best by Restaurant Magazine. Four stars from the San Francisco Chronicle and the Mobil ravel Guide.

Sounds good.

He’s studied in France, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the US. California cuisine with French and Catalan influences is how he’s being billed.

Okay, I can do this.

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Malcolm Ormond does the introduction, covering much of the above (and some more points I’ll save until later). A key point is that this sort of presentation isn’t something that David does often.

As David says “It’s not my forte to speak in front”.

Still, as we’ll see, he does a very good job of it.

Our menu today is a trio of dishes representing his take on cuisine. Simple, and very much about the ingredients.

As for our wines, Reina Burns is here to represent Francis Ford Coppola’s winery from Sonoma County. We’ll be doing a Sofia, Blanc de Blanc; a Chardonnay Director’s; and a Cabernet Sauvignon Director’s.

Let’s get started with the food.

Tomato Soup

Barely Cooked, with Coriander Ice

Serves 10 (or myself and a friend on a hot summer day

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This is a very simple dish, but there are a couple of really neat elements in here.

Plus, I like the colour red.

Ingredients: Tomato Soup

  • 4 lb of ripe tomatoes - with just the pedestal taken out and quartered. Keep that juice
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 oz to 3 oz of red wine vinegar (depending on your taste you could use sherry or balsamic here)
  • 12 basil leaves - plucked
  • 2-3 cloves garlic – very finely chopped, as it’s not going to get much cooking, and you want to avoid the raw taste
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sugar

Mix all of these ingredients, and then SLOWLY bring it up to 150F (around 68C). You want to warm this up in a bath. Like he said, go slow for 20 to 25 minutes, without a lid. You want this warm, not hot.

And don’t mess with it. Don’t stir it, don’t toss it. Leave it alone.

And no water. The only fluid is from the tomatoes.

The point here is to get a gradation of cooking. The tomatoes on the bottom will be close to the puree point, while the ones on top will be half raw. This is going to give you an excellent mix of tomato flavours.

Let the soup cool, and then put everything through a food mill. This will puree the cooked tomatoes, while chunking the raw ones. Then pass the through a chinois.

If you don’t have a food mill (Yoonhi’s going to kill me if I bring back more kitchen equipment) then you can use a cuisinart and pulse after draining to get the chunkiness you want.

Let the soup chill.

Ingredients: Coriander Ice

  • 1 liter water
  • 200 gr sugar
  • 3 bunches of coriander
  • 1 bunch of mint

For this, a simple syrup with coriander and mint, the mint to a lesser extent, really just there to round out the coriander.

First, make your syrup with 200 ml of the water, and then chill it. Chill the remaining water.

Now, put everything in the blender and work it down. It’s important with herbs, when you blend them, that you don’t allow the heat of the motor to cook them at all. That’s why we’ve been chilling the syrup.

After blending, pass the coriander-mint-syrup through a chinois to strain it out a bit.

Then, put it in a freezer.

You have three options at this point.

  1. use a fork to break up the crust, giving it a hit every 20 minutes
  2. freeze it solid, and then fork scrape, which works well in Thai heat and humidity
  3. mill it in a food mill (keeping the mill in the freezer, too). This will give you consistent crystals. (Maybe I do need a food mill, after all. Maybe Yoonhi won’t notice it? Maybe I’ll like sleeping on the couch?)

Ingredients: Garnish

  • Thai pickled garlic
  • Pickled shallots
  • Pickled fish
  • Pickled persimmons
  • Herb sprigs

With all the cold ingredients ready, check the soup to see if it needs salt or sugar. If it does, add it in.

To serve, first arrange the coriander ice with the garnish.

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Next, pour the soup into the bowl.

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Third, get a good smell before you dig in.

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Like I said, this is really neat. You get a dichotomy of tomato, that mix of cooked and raw flavours. And, along with that, you get that sudden thermocline of the coriander ice, and the smell of the herbs. For a cold soup on a hot summer day, this is brilliant, as the ice will keep the soup at the right, chilled temperature for a longer period than you would hope for normally.

This is something I’ll be doing when the temperatures climb back up.

I just need to find a food mill before then.

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Next Slow Roasted Rack of Lamb with Exotic Spices

The key here is to gently, slowly cook the meat. The flavou of the meat is in the juices, and so you want to keep them inside.

An interesting item for David, he doesn’t salt his meat until the very end. He considers that to change the nature of the meat, and his philosophy is to respect the flavour of the lamb. He’ll introduce salt (good sea salt) at the end, for its own flavour, but not as an intrusion on the raw ingredient.

So, for beginners, get the meat out of the fridge and let it warm up for a few hours.

Take your now-room-temperature lamb, and, bones up, sear it in hot oil. Move it around.

Once seared and sealed, put it in the oven for 13 minutes at 325F and then pull it out and let it rest for 13 minutes. 13 and 13. Set the oven down to 180-185 degrees (or 15 degrees lower if it’s a convection), and return the meat, uncovered, to the oven.

For the “exotic spices” part, we’ll be using vadouvan, a French interpretation of an Indian masala – vadavam – from Pondicherry. This is a mix of some 25 spices, with tumeric, cloves, fenugreek, and mustard seeds standing out in the mix.

First we brown the butter. 3 knobs of it. Then we spoon in the curry. Hand rotate and shake the butter. At the last moment, after the melt and the bubble and the foam, add more butter to melt in as you take it off the heat. This will cool it down and add fresh milk products back in.

You should have that brown colour from the milk products and the aroma of hazelnuts. Just keep it moving and you’re safe.

“Anything cooked in brown butter is fantastic.”

Check the meat for heat, we want this medium rare.

Salt the outside, and rub on the fresh herbs at the end with the meat out. They’ll burn in the oven. Thyme, rosemary, mint.

Now cut your meat, and season. This is the only salt the inner meat has seen.

The meat goes into a hot oven for a few moments. No juice should be seen, it should all be in the lamb.

Remove from the oven, and spoon on the vadouvan and serve.

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And then there’s dessert.

Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?

Coffee, Chicory, Pecan, Praline, Beignets

Serves 10

Dessert starts up with the ice cream already made, so I’ll just quote what was in th class notes:

Ingredients: PECAN PRALINE ICE CREAM

  • 1 liter water
  • 120 gr. sugar
  • 300 gr. cilantro
  • 50 gr. mint (spearmint"
  • sea salt
  • same procedure
  • 1436 gr. half and half, (1.5 cups)
  • 20 yolks (350 gr.)
  • 450 gr. praline
  • 100 gr. glucose
  • 100 gr. sugar
  • 1 l. cream

MAKE THE ICE CREAM:

  • Steep together the half and half, glucose, sugar and praline.
  • Allow to marinate for one hour, mix into the liquid, then strain. There will be a touch of sediment.
  • Liason (that’s an interesting phrase) with the egg yolks. allow to cool in an ice bath, then stir in the heavy cream.

Ingredients: FOR THE PRALINE

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 85 gr. water
  • 2 cups pecan pieces

Make a syrup and start to caramelize. When it just starts to get colour, add the pecans. It will crystalize. Keep stirring and allow the surface to melt and then turn to a deep caramel. Pour out on to a silicon sheet and separate the nuts pretty good, and allow to cool. Then chop into rough pieces.

Ingredients: CHICORY ROOT PASTRY CREAM

  • 1 liter milk.
  • Scald.
  • 4 ea. vanilla beans. add to milk and steep with 20 gr. roasted ground chicory root.
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 yolks
  • combine.
  • 180 gr. sugar
  • 60 gr. corn starch
  • Combine then whisk into the eggs.
  • Liason milk and egg mixtures. Bring to a boil while whisking the entire time.
  • Strain into an ice bath and cover with plastic wrap.

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Ingredients: PECAN SQUARES

  • 1 sheet pan
  • 1 lb 6 oz bread flour
  • 2 oz. pastry flour
  • 1 lb butter (I checked on this, yes, it is a lot)
  • 8 oz. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 T. salt
  • 350F for 17 minutes with docked pastry and weights

For this you can use a pre-baked pie shell, punched with holes. Line with tin foil and then load it with rice to keep the shape you want (that’s the “weights” part). You can use regular sugar for this.

Ingredients: FILLING

  • 2 lb 4 oz. brown sugar
  • 9 oz. sugar
  • 2 lb 4 oz butter
  • 1 lb 2 oz honey
  • 1 t. salt
  • 4 lb 4 oz. Pecans halves
  • 300 ml. cream
  • Cream butter and sugar. Add 1 egg at a time.
  • machine at setting 1 just to bring it together.

Parboil your pecans first. One you start working this over heat, stir sparingly to a caramel. You don’t want to work this too much. Get it to s slushy consistency with a paddle, then add flour and turn it.

For caramel, look to the quality of the bubbles, their evenness. It should be spitting.

Once ready, pour the mix out onto the pastry. If the dough breaks, save some scraps to patch with. You’ll paddle this in slowly.

Once ready, bake it at 170F for 23 minutes. When it comes out, cut it up and then rewarm. From the audience we can smell the aroma of the squares. As a final hint, David suggests flavouring the honey with some Grand Marnier.

BEIGNETS - AN OLD NEW ORLEANS VERSION (BEST ONE)

Ingredients for the beignet:



  • 240 gr. lukewarm water
  • 60 gr. sugar
  • 2 gr. salt
  • 1 egg, room temperature & beaten
  • 27 gr. butter, softened
  • 120 gr. evaporated milk
  • 590 gr. bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 12 gr. instant active dry yeast
  • Vegetable oil*
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Again, I’ll just take the next part verbatim from David’s notes:

* Use just enough vegetable oil to completely cover beignets while frying.

Combine the Yeast, Water, and Sugar in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (You could also make this in a food processor, or the old fashioned way, by hand). Let this sit until frothy, about 5 minutes, then add the Salt, Egg, and Evaporated Milk. Mix on low speed, then add half of the flour until it starts to come together, then add the shortening. When the shortening is incorporated start adding the remaining flour, a little at a time until most of it is incorporated. At this time I always turn the dough onto a floured bench to finish by hand, just like when I make bread; it's a touch thing. Knead the dough adding just enough flour as necessary to make a non-sticky, smooth dough. Place the dough into a large oiled bowl, loosely cover and let rise (I made mine last night and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator).

After the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down and turn it onto a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle that is about 1/2" thick. With a very sharp knife working at a diagonal to the rectangle, cut into 2" wide strips. Now cut into diamond shapes by making diagonal cuts in the opposite direction. Place the Beignets on a floured baking sheet to let rise about 40 minutes in a warm place (I place them in a barely warm oven).

When the Beignets have risen, heat 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a large saucepan to 350-360 degrees. Place 2-3 Beignets into the hot oil at a time, being careful not to smash or deflate them. (Extra note: spoon the oil over the beignets as they fry). When they are golden brown, flip them over until golden brown on the other side (They go pretty quickly so start checking them right after they go into the oil). Remove to paper towel lined plates to drain.

As an extra, David went with a banana. This was cut lengthwise, with the skin left on, for 3 minutes. Then it was pulled out of the onion, flensed, and the pieces put on a tray. There they get some sugar tapped onto them, after which they’re seen to with a bit of the blowtorch (everyone needs a blowtorch).

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For the plating, the chickory root puree is smeared across the dish, and then the softened pecan tart is set, the ice cream spooned on, and the banana crowns things.

Our beignets, topped with confectioner’s sugar, take up a happy position in support.

And, yes, it does remind us of New Orleans – the chickory and the pecans. With beignets, I’m of two minds. I remember the Café du Monde in the Quarter, but this also brought back memories of Wattay Airport in the old days, when we’d wait for our flights in that old barn of an aerodrome, tucked off in the side café with fresh beignets and strong coffee from the Bolovens.

I guess I’m just going to have to make some beignets soon.

My lunch company was a lot of fun. The fellow sitting beside me is very active in organic farming, and is involved in the business here in Thailand with his uncle. He pointed out one interesting site www.rawfoods.com which has some interesting things, and also had an excellent suggestion of using agave nectar in sweetening. Plus, as is the case with most people who take part in these classes, he had a number of new wine and cheese suggestions for me to chase.

That reminds me, I haven’t said much of the wines.

Coppola has put his name to these wines. He’d been a “virtual vintner” for several years, going back to his first wine in 1997. In 2006 he broke out of this, purchasing his own Sonoma vineyard.

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We’d started with the Sofia, Blanc de Blancs. This is a wine he’d had done up for his daughter’s wedding. Pretty bottle.

It’s a fruity thing. Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, some Muscat in there. The Muscat gives it a bit of a honeysuckle finish. Not bad, but not really memorable, either.

Next was the 2008 Francis Ford Coppola, Director’s, Sonoma County Chardonnay. The labeling talks about the “Director’s” as a sequel to the earlier “Director’s Cut”. As an oaked Chardonnay, this isn’t bad. It’s the sort of thing you’d drink young. A bit of butter on the lips and this improves a lot (a suggestion from my dining companion). With the acidity in the tomatoes, this worked well enough.

The third wine, which came with our meat, was the 2007 Director’s, Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a blend of two different clones from Sonoma, with the target being a soft, subtle cab. The usual notes are there: cherries and blackberries, with a hint of licorice. As with the Sofia, it’s good, but not remarkable. Alongside the lamb it has a bit of trouble holding its own.

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Back to the chef, as we were waiting on the lunch he fielded some questions from the audience. This was a bit thin at first, but then we asked him about his relationship with Love Apple Farms. This is something he does enjoy talking about.

It’s an excellent concept. We’ve seen similar elements of locality all along the West Coast, but this goes quite a bit beyond that, a much more interesting business model.

Four years ago he’d been a regular client of theirs, buying tomatoes, fruit, eggs, and honey from the farm. They have over 200 items growing there, with 70 to 80 vegetables alone for restaurants and experiments.

Manresa, David’s restaurant, entered into a monthly contract with Love Apple to take their produce. This has changed things quite a bit, as you now have a different element in the planning of production in support of the restaurant’s meals, and the scale of things has changed drastically.

“It’s one thing to order a case of eggplant; another to have crops.”

And the fun part is that you get to watch the growth of the food, and use that in planning for your future menus. As he says, the “food writes the menu”, which is always a sensible approach.

As for the lunch, the tomato soup is definitely on my list of hot weather dishes, and I’m very eager to try the lamb recipe, and see if it really is “fool proof” as David says. The beignets I will try, but I’d better do this when Yoonhi’s not about. I foresee some possible issues with the kitchen when I’m done with this.

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