Meeting women chefs is always a heart warming experience, however I may be a little biased in my impression. It has nothing to do with their proficiency but the way we get talking about our challenges, health issues and sharing tips and tricks that I always come back beaming with joy whenever I have had a relaxed chat with a woman chef. So was the case when we went to check out the new winter menu at The Spice Route and Chef Veena Arora (Chef De Cuisine at the restaurant) joined us for lunch, talking at leisure about her childhood spend in small towns in Thailand, the way Thai women use herbs for food and folk medicine and her childhood food memories.
I have always been fascinated by the judicial use of herbs in Thai cooking and little did I expect that the new menu will be liberally infused with herbs. Some of the herbs are common to India and Thailand and some are used differently in both the countries, never failing to make the food awe inspiring.
The Spice Route is a beautiful south-east Asian restaurant at The Imperial Hotel, known for its beautiful carved wooden pillars and wall panels that took 7 years to build. The artwork on the wall panels depicts the story of spice routes, made using vegetable and flower dyes by mural painters brought in from Guruvayur temple of Kerala. The design of the restaurant is so overwhelming that I always forget to click pictures of the interiors.
I stepped out into the courtyard this time and this serene water body greeted me. Stunning design.
The splendour is carried on to the table as well. We have dined at The Spice Route a couple of times earlier and have been awestruck by the simplicity of the dishes with flavours shining through every bite. It was a similar story this time as well, for obvious reasons.
Yum Thalay, the Thai spicy seafood salad with tom yum paste came generously infused with Lemongrass and Kaffir lime, the freshness of the ingredients making a bold statement about how well the mixed seafood has been treated. It was a delight to nibble into.
The Kung Hom Pha, prawns wrapped with Por Pia skin (thin philo pastry) with mild lemongrass and pepper flavours was great too. The textures and flavours work really well for such a dish.
The salads were followed by Tom Yum Thalay, a hot and sour mixed seafood soup infused generously with Galangal, Kaffir lime and Lemongrass. The large chunks of mixed seafood, mixed wild mushrooms in the warming soup with citrus flavours was really comforting. We kept talking about how wonderfully herbs are used in south-east Asian cuisines, I will share more about the herbs soon.
For main course we had Rendang Udang, a Malay style prawn curry cooked with more lemongrass, roasted coconut and coconut milk with Thai Jasmine rice. By this time we had already spent two hours talking to Chef Veena and when she announced the ice creams are made of tofu we felt like tasting them even though we were overstuffed.
We tasted the Green tea, Coconut and Cinnamon flavours of the ice creams made with tofu and found them nice. I am not too fond of ice creams but tofu based ice creams can be a great thing for diabetics and people avoiding commercial ice creams.
Did you know you can just blend silken tofu with ripe sweet bananas or mangoes (frozen) and make a quick ice cream at home? Try that sometime and see how a healthy ice cream in ready in a jiffy.
Or just head to The Spice Route and get one of these exotic flavours of tofu ice creams. The food will definitely overwhelm you if you love seafood and the Thai herbs.