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DINING OUT & Khun Ocha's Cookbook

A taste of Europe in the heart of the Night Bazaar

The first Sunday of the month is the scene of a magnificent buffet brunch at Le Meridien Chiang Mai’s Favola restaurant. This amazing buffet features everything from fresh water lobster to foie gras and more.

By Paul Surtees; pictures by Albert Cheung

The monthly meetings of Chiang Mai’s Expatriate association take place these days at the downtown Le Meridien Chiang Mai Hotel, so many readers will be familiar at least with the stylish function halls of that place. It is located at 108 Chang Klan Road, at a busy corner of the Night Bazaar.  Nice breakfast snacks are laid out on buffet tables for those large-scale Saturday morning meetings, but this review examines the hotel’s famous Sunday brunches – which are on quite a different scale!

The selection of seafood at the buffet is fresh and plentiful, but there are also many other dishes on offer for those who do not love quality seafood.

Most Sundays, from 11:30 am to 3 pm pm, they offer ‘’The Le Meridien Chiang Mai Signature Brunch’’ in their lobby-level restaurant. That is certainly a magnificent family-style feast, and that buffet with drinks costs THB 1,399 net. per person.

However, on the first Sunday of each month, an even better – gourmet - brunch is instead provided at their first floor Favola restaurant [tel. 053 25 3299], from 11:30 am to 3pm. This is a more upscale experience, with food and drink offerings to match; in a setting that adults would appreciate. Valet parking is provided. The per-person cost of THB 1,999 net. includes a welcome glass of champagne and selected drinks throughout the meal. This welcome drink is served together with a wonderful first plate of half a New Zealand lobster, garnished with orange and black fish eggs: a great way to start.

If you are still thirsty later on, then you can purchase an additional single glass of champagne for THB 999, or a whole bottle for THB 1,999….. if you do the maths, you’ll likely choose the whole bottle deal! Within the Favola restaurant is located a glass-walled walk-in wine cellar, where you can choose from a vast range of wines. They offer a fair range of different wines by the glass, as well as by the bottle. They have vintage champagnes at THB 25,000 a bottle, for example, down to Prosecco at THB 149 a glass, or 649 a bottle. You could end your meal with a glass of one of their twenty-two different types of grappa, ranging from THB 220 right up to 1,100 a glass. However, one of the many delightful aspects of this special brunch is that the very-attentive staff come round to the tables from time to time with (included) different house cocktails for you to enjoy with your meal. A basil martini; another cocktail consisting of elderflower and sparkling wine; and at dessert time a tiramisu martini were all well-mixed.

The soup was pumpkin soup, with almonds. I had to call for a ladle and proper soup spoons, because neither had been provided. The impressive selection of cold cuts included Tuscany ham, Tyrol ham, wild boar salami, delicious veal loin; and at other buffet tables nearby you can choose from Mont St. Michel oysters, salmon, rock lobster, sushi, chicken pate made by their French chef, Alaskan king crab, squid, mussels, river prawns, and fresh salad items such as delectable sun-dried tomato. Much of the food here is Italian in origin, as are many of the wide selection of European cheeses. The cheese selection here also includes items from France, Spain and Switzerland, as well as many special ones from Italy. These are complimented with a fine selection of home-baked breads.

At the open kitchen, their Italian chef will fry up for you a tasty portion of foie gras. As you might expect, they do gourmet (home-made) pastas as well, with a variety of special sauces from which to choose. The range includes a sauce of saffron with Parma ham; matriciana (chilli and tomato sauce); porcini mushroom ragout; and a very-rich one which I greatly enjoyed, of black truffle with cream on my fettuccini.

Their vegetable selection was also impressive, including such items as mixed vegetables in a tasty sauce of butter and Parmesan cheese. Although I generally do not like mashed potato, theirs was skillfully and lavishly laced with truffle and with Parmesan cheese – and was delicious!

Their roast selections, all of which can be cooked to your preference, range from several types of fish, to squid, to chicken, pork, to lamb to Tuscan prime beef ribs, to succulent roast beef, and rib eye steaks. If you’ve got any room left, they can also bake a pizza for you.

Bread-and-butter pudding was one of the many dessert choices the day we went. (Their offerings change, with the seasons.) Of course, there was also fresh fruit, tiramisu, chocolates, and much more besides to choose from.

All-in-all, this is a sumptuous feast, with many high-quality (and expensive) ingredients available, and must count as one of Chiang Mai’s most superb brunch experiences.

Khun Ocha's Cookbook

 Update October 29, 2016

Chicken from Jamaica

This is an easy recipe to produce a very tasty way to present chicken breast. The herbs and spices are all readily available here.

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. Cook for another three minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Pour over the chicken breast and serve immediately.

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 ½ tspn
Ground cumin ¼ tspn
Dried leaf thyme ¼ tspn
Salt 1 pinch to season

Update October 22, 2016

Cajun Chicken Sandwich

This is certainly not your average sandwich, and one that does take 25 minutes from idea to plate (10 mins preparation and 15 mins cooking), so perhaps double the quantities so you have a second one to enjoy as well.
Chinese Five Spice is more easily obtained than Cajun seasoning.

Cooking Method

Season the chicken with salt, your choice of spices, and pepper. Cook chicken in a nonstick frying pan for five minutes, then turn and cook for about another four minutes until cooked through but still moist and juicy. Now squeeze over a little lemon juice over it.
While the chicken is cooking blend the blue cheese and mayonnaise together.
Layer the salad ingredients on top of the slice of bread and slice the chicken thinly and place on top, followed by the blue cheese mayo.
Sandwich together with the remaining bread and eat warm.

Ingredients Serves one
Skinless, boneless, chicken breast 1/2
Cajun seasoning 1 tspn
or Chinese five-spice powder 1/2 tspn
Salt and ground pepper to taste
Juice of ฝ lemon
Mild blue cheese 1/2 cup
Mayonnaise 1 tbspn
Cherry tomatoes, halved 4
Salad onion, sliced 1
Handful of salad greens 
Bread 2 slices

Update October 15, 2016

Thai Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin is a very underrated vegetable. Even international chef Shaun Venter had a pumpkin dish in the last wine tasting event. It can be used in many ways, and making soup is just one of them. The pumpkin base is enough to be able to add many ingredients, such as curry powder, or as in this case, many items from a Thai kitchen. Pumpkin is also very inexpensive while we are all watching the cost of living going up.

Cooking Method

In a large pot, heat oil and gently cook onion with brown sugar and garlic over low heat until softened (8-10 minutes).

Skin and chop pumpkin into 2 cm chunks. Add pumpkin, water, coconut cream, chili, lemongrass and fish sauce. Season with freshly ground pepper.

Simmer for about 25 minutes until tender. Remove and puree until smooth.

Just before serving, adjust seasoning to taste and mix in chopped coriander.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a fresh coriander leaf.

Ingredients Serves 4-6
Vegetable oil 2 tbspns
Onion, finely chopped 1
Brown sugar 1 tbspn
Garlic, crushed 2 cloves
Small pumpkin 1
Water 500 ml
Canned coconut cream 250 ml
Sweet Thai chili sauce 1 tbspn
Lemon grass, finely chopped 1 tbpsn
Fish sauce 1 tbspn
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh chopped coriander 50 ml 
Coriander leaves for garnish

Update October 7, 2016

Wiener Schnitzel

This dish is one that you will find in every restaurant that has any pretensions to having ‘European’ cuisine. It is a traditional dish from Vienna (Wien), and although the usual recipe calls for veal, this can be substituted for meat more readily available, such as pork or chicken (or even turkey). The traditional recipe also called for the meat to be fried in lard, but today a polyunsaturated cooking oil would be better.

Cooking Method

Pound the meat thin and flatten out carefully. Lightly salt.

Prepare three plates: Put flour on one, whisk the two eggs and place on the second and cover the third with the breadcrumbs.

Now dip the meat in flour first, then into the egg (covering both sides) and then into the breadcrumbs.

In a frying pan, place the oil, with enough to float the schnitzels. Fry quickly, turning both sides. Do not overcook or they will become tough and dry.

Serve with your choice of potatoes, though a sliced pan-fried potato with onion and bacon goes very well with this dish.

Ingredients Serves 4
Veal/pork/chicken 4 x 120 gm sliced thin
For the breading
Eggs 2
Breadcrumbs (commercially available)
Salt to taste
Oil for frying 

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

A taste of Europe in the heart of the Night Bazaar

Khun Ocha's Cookbook

Chicken from Jamaica

Cajun Chicken Sandwich

Thai Pumpkin Soup

Wiener Schnitzel