For most, Thai food is synonymous with the ubiquitous red and green curries that we may have sampled at our local Thai joints. Few of us are however aware of the lesser known, yet technique driven rendition of the cuisine which is Royal Thai cuisine. In Thailand, this food is called A-harn Chao Wang which means ‘food for people living in a palace’.
Royal Thai cuisine can trace its origins back to the cosmopolitan palace cuisine of the Atthuya Kingdom (1351-1767 AD). It is said that the refinement and superior cooking techniques of that era, were a great influence on the Western Thai plains. Cooks working in the ancient Thai palaces went through great pains to ensure that the dish they were preparing was a culinary as well as a visual treat.
The Royal chefs would strive to present food in unusual and enticing combinations; like garnishing a red beef curry with a small dish of deep fried clams; crisp skinned coconut cup cakes topped with minced prawn, pork or chicken, stir-fried with curry paste; or jade-coloured glutinous rice covered with sweetened dried fish.
Chef David Thompson’s book, ‘Thai Cuisine’ gives us a better idea of Thai fare of the earlier times. In this, he makes mention of a complex dish where salted chicken was braised with sugar cane, finely shredded and then dry-fried in a brass wok over a very low heat while the meat was picked and teased apart by hand until it was a dried floss of diaphanous caramelised strands.
According to Chef McDang, a celebrated Thai chef born into the Thai Royal Family, there is not much difference between Royal Thai cuisine and regular Thai Cuisine. The difference lies in the way that it is prepared and served. As a result, only the freshest produce is used. Dishes not only adhere to an aesthetic standard but also have to be pleasing to the palate. Fruits and vegetables do not have any pits, skin or peel on them. They are cut into bite sized quantities and any long vegetables are tied into a knot.
When serving prawn, the head is removed while fish is stripped of all its bones. Very often after this, the fish is rearranged in its original form to give the impression that it has not been tampered with, at all. The rule of the thumb is that one should be able to eat everything that is present on one’s plate. Thai Royal cuisine, unlike regular Thai cuisine, does not encourage the use of extreme flavours. This means, that the food is never too spicy, too salty or too sour.
Several Thai cuisine experts are of the opinion that if there was one dish which could be traced to the Thai Royal kitchens, then it would be the ‘Khao Chae’ which is a popular royal summer treat. It is said that it was introduced to the people of the palace during the reign of King Rama II. ‘Khao Chae’ is literally rice in cold jasmine and candle-scented water with an assortment of intricately made sides. This exotic dish proves to be a welcome reprieve in the stifling summer heat of Thailand.
From 15th to 24th March, the Deccan Pavilion brings to you, Sukho Thai -- Royal cuisine from Thailand at Deccan Pavilion in ITC Kakatiya, Hyderabad. You can now savour the delicious cuisine of the Royals, carefully prepared by Chef Som which includes dishes like Yam phak krob (crispy vegetables with sweet chilli sauce), Kaeng-leung (succulent prawn in mild yellow curry), Tour-phad prik-keang (French beans with smoked red chilli) and Ka-pow hed sod (stir-fried zucchini with mushroom and basil sauce). It promises to be a fare that will seduce all your senses!