Buffet at the Kad, Shangri-La

Daring to buck the trend…hopefully

E.P. Brown
Economists seem unable to agree on the best course of action in an economic down turn or depression, not least when politics intrude. Yet there is a general consensus that when faced with unpalatable times those with the gumption, (and the financial ability), to buck the move towards parsimony prove to be the ultimate winners.
So what has bucking that trend got to do with catering, you may well ask.
The trend is to rein in on expenditure: to cut advertising, reduce staff numbers, or their hours or salaries, to cut corners, (smaller portions, less variety), and, importantly, to avoid wastage. Accepting that wastage is never a good thing, morally or economically, the rest of the above can actually be counter productive. They affect turnover, morale, quality and standards – and customer satisfaction. Buck the trend, if possible.
A classic case, often cited, comes from the even worse depression of the 1930s when two companies producing breakfast cereals in the U.S.A. were battling it out for supremacy. They were about equal in their fairly small and as yet untapped market. When tough times arrived one of them cut back drastically and did all the ‘sensible’ things, (see above). The other proved more aggressive, upped its advertising and introduced new products which went snap, crackle and pop. Cheapish, easily provided breakfasts which were fairly nutritious became ever more popular and today Kelloggs rule the world’s morning tables, whilst the other company is history. Or perhaps toast…

A similar notion, on a tiny scale of course, is prevailing at the Shangri-La Hotel, in respect of its well established buffets. This is a big place and the temptation must have been to cordon off an area, reduce the serving stations and – heaven forbid – the quality whilst maintaining or raising prices. Luckily wisdom prevailed.
It was decided that prices should be fixed or even reduced and that choice and quality should be maintained and even improved in some areas. The buffets have three fixed prices: the so-called business lunch is 199 baht, with four ‘live’ cooking stations and others with cold areas. The dinner, which is the one that our quartet sampled, is priced at 299 baht and boasts more stations, including a very good salad bar, the sushi next to it, a variety of hot dishes, some prepared on the spot and a lot of very naughty puddings.
For those who fancy such things there is a BBQ Sunday brunch, with all of the above, plus a variety of fish and a carvery. They offer a chance to visit the pool for a relaxing afternoon, following this extravaganza. Medical advice might suggest a siesta before taking the plunge.
Our group found plenty to enjoy, with a distinct improvement noted in the salads, compared with earlier visits. The sushi was also well up to standard.
A portion of pasta with spicy vegetables was also enjoyed, as was a pizza and a meat dish. And naming no names, one diner made three trips, no further than the sushi, plus an obligatory journey to the ice creams and other sweets. The ‘problem’ with buffets is that they lead us into temptation. And represent best value to those with large appetites. But at 229 baht this is value to even modest eaters.
Not surprisingly, especially given the ludicrous tax on wine, the catch can be in the drinks menu. But carafe water is in plentiful supply and a variety of beers hovers around the 100 baht level. The Shangri-La at 89/8 Chang Klan Road is a huge building, (designed by the great firm of Ove Arup), and nothing on earth will fill it or other top grade hotels during the present period with an estimated 60% decline in tourism, but at least they are trying.


Jamaican Chicken

This is a very simple recipe to produce a very tasty way to present chicken breast. The herbs and spices are all readily available here, and most cooks will have them in the cupboard already.

Cooking Method
Pound the chicken breast fillets to around 1 cm thick. Heat cooking oil in the wok over medium-high heat until very hot. Quickly cook the chicken, turning once. Do not overcook. Remove from wok, set aside and keep warm.
Add the orange juice to wok. Quickly bring to a boil, scraping bottom with a spatula to loosen any browned bits. Add the onion, green peppers, red peppers. Cook, stirring, for three minutes, until vegetables are tender.
Place the cornstarch in a cup. Add the apple juice and stir until smooth. Add the minced garlic, ground cayenne pepper, cumin, thyme, and salt and add to the wok, and cook for another three minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Pour over the chicken breast and serve immediately with steamed rice.

Ingredients                           Serves 4
Chicken breast fillet                  750 gm
Orange juice                               1 cup
Onion, chopped                         1 large
Green bell pepper, chopped                1
Red bell pepper, chopped                   1
Cooking oil                                30 mls
Cornstarch                               2 tspns
Apple juice                             2 tbspns
Garlic, minced                        2 cloves
Ground cayenne pepper            tspn
Ground cumin                          tspn
Dried leaf thyme                      tspn
Salt                        1 pinch to season