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High season begins, new menus abound!

By Heather Allen
One of the joys of the start of high season are the fantastic new menus that many of the hotels, resorts and restaurants implement. Siripanna Resort is starting a new Thai menu to go with their fabulous grill featuring a very tasty fresh made clear Tom Yam chicken from the recipe of a noted chef given national artist status Penpan Sithitrai. I confess, the clear Tom Yam is a favorite of mine and I found the sour and spicy perfectly matched. The ala carte menu features other delicious Thai and Lanna treats alongside their famous buffet.
Not to be outdone, Tamarind Village, renowned for their northern food added new dishes to their menu made by local chefs including the owner of the Secret Garden, a small reservation only restaurant found in Mae Rim. Titled 1Kong Gin Baan Hao’ or ‘Dishes We Like To Eat At Home’. It offers such well known Northern dishes as Gaeng Hung Ley but also lesser known dishes such as ‘ab’ minced meat and herbs blended and steamed in a banana leaf. Ab was reminiscent to me of the better known Hor mok. The ‘Ab Plah’ was absolutely delicious as was the Tum Ma Kuea or charcoal grilled eggplant and chili dip. The smoky flavor and the creamy eggplant were delicious.
A cooking demonstration was on offer as well and the simplicity in preparation and cooking was belied by the flavor. Food that grandma would cook if your grandmother was a Northern Thai woman!
Finally an invitation the Cooking School at the Four Seasons saw our merry band instructed in the ways of making purple food! Anchan, or as it is known in English, Butterfly pea, is a beautiful blue flower that is also totally edible. The dried flowers are soaked in water to produce a brilliant blue color which, when lemon juice is added, turn a gorgeous royal purple. This water is mixed with rice flour to make a dumpling which is filled with a garlic, chicken and herbs mixture and then steamed. The resulting lavender colored dumpling is not only really pretty but quite tasty too. The very personable chef made a few other dishes for us including attractive and surprisingly easy to make fresh spring rolls. Although as it was pointed out to one non-cook in the group, you do have to be able to chop up all the ingredients and cook the egg into an omelet to make this dish.
Like everything at the Four Seasons, the Cooking School was well appointed and in very beautiful surroundings.
Certainly all of these places offer a pricey alternative (although I should add the Siripanna dinner is extremely reasonable, with the buffet at 599 Baht and the ala carte dishes extra) but for those looking for high quality, delicious food in a beautiful ambiance, these new menus all come highly recommended.



Pumpkin curry

This pumpkin always brings back memories for me. One day while I was visiting Doi Suthep temple, my mom called and told me the sad news that my grandma had just passed away. Two months later hidden in the back of the garden I found pumpkin and melon plants with their big, ripe fruits. We recalled that grandma was the one who planted them.
That meal with Kaeng Ma Fak (Pumpkin curry) was a bittersweet memory of her. A year later I still think of her when I cook pumpkin and I won’t be surprised to find Grandma’s pumpkins growing all over Thailand after I shared some seeds to folks on the internet who like pumpkins.
Take 500g pumpkin, chopped into 1x1inch cubes, 300g pork, 100g lemon basil leaf.
Make chili paste by pound fresh chili, salt, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, shrimp paste and chopped plara (fermented fish) all together.
Boil 1 liter of water and add chili paste. Add the pork to the boiling water and cook until the soup has a good flavor. Add the pumpkin and cook for about 15 minutes, until the pumpkin is cooked. Remove from the heat and add the lemon basil leaves.
A simple and easy but delicious meal.

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