Our local gastronomic scene seems to have been taken by storm with a new wave of “inventive” and somewhat “avant garde” kinda culinary styles where anything goes as long as it looks really appetising, tastes pretty good, seemingly healthy and most importantly, Instagram worthy. I don’t dig most of these “experimental” culinary concepts well but I must say some of them are really quite delicious, so much so that I would go through the trouble of garnering all of my favorite ingredients to make a portion at home just to satiate a craving. The poké bowl is one such recent craze.
When I made Som Tam for Asia Food Fest Thailand two years back, I fell in love with how it tasted. The assemblage of piquant flavours from sugary to sour, savory and spicy came together beautifully to stimulate one’s palate. And now I turn to using green mangoes in place of papaya, for Som Tam Mamuang. Needless to say, it was equally, if not even more moreish and appetite whetting!
Thai cuisine is up next for Asian Food Fest #2 and the contrast between Thai and Japanese food couldn’t be greater. Yet I love them both! For me, Thai food is all about the explosion of flavours albeit with little mouthfuls that go a long way. The prototypical impression many of us have on Thai food is its stong notes on heat and sourish palate profile. Thai cuisine liberally incorporates chili in many of its dishes so one is almost immediately hit by the impact from these little morsels of red firecrackers bursting in one’s mouth. Acridity and astringency introduced take form through the use of Thai green limes and/or tamarind pulp and together, they produce a wave of refreshing sensation against the heat, helping to subdue the latter slightly. Some say that it is really a competition of these two flavours but I choose to think that the amalgamation makes it multi-dimensional. Speaking of multi-dimensional, Thai cuisine is also heavy on the use of fish sauce, much loved for its savory hues and profound sense of umami flavours it transpires. In fact fish sauce, despite being commonly employed in Indochinese cuisines like Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian food as well, is synonymously linked with Thai food. And everything is balanced with a bit of sweetness from Thai palm sugar, a milder, and incidentally paler version compared to its southern cousin coconut sugar (gula melaka/gula jawa) used extensively in Straits and Indonesian cuisine. As such, Thai cuisine is really a big melting pot of flavours as well as aromatics. For me, one dish which epitomises the very essence of Thai cuisine has to be ส้มตำ Som Tam, its ever popular Green Papaya Salad.
Prosciutto e melone con insalata rucola is a traditional Italian anti-pasti, i.e. an appetiser before the main course. Given the right ingredients, it just takes a matter of minutes to put together. Despite being a simple spread of only 4 to 5 items, the assembly of flavours are quite incredible. This explains why it was easily one of my favorites-to-order on the menu of any Italian restaurant that offers it. Why eat it at a restaurant when you can always make it at home? Well, read on and you would know why…