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Cuisine Focus: Thai food

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It’s all about the ingredients and resulting tastes when it comes to Thai food, and these cuisine ambassadors are showing us how it’s done properly

Meet the Experts

– Aphichat Amatmontri, chef de cuisine, Pai Thai, Al Qasr Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah

– Peter Boripat, chef de cuisine, Sontaya, The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi

– Nok Hayataphat, manager, Thai Chi, Pyramids Wafi, Dubai

– Supachai Tontsoontern, Thai executive chef, Sukhothai, Le Meridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre

Do you think Thai cuisine is popular in this region?

Aphichat Amatmontri, chef de cuisine, Pai Thai, Al Qasr Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah: Yes, I know from the number of covers we do that Thai food is very popular in the region. This is because the weather in Dubai and Thailand are quite similar – hot and humid in both. I believe eating spicy food actually cools you down. The concept of plates being placed in the centre of the table to make meals a sharing experience is a notion that people in Dubai are very comfortable with. This adds to the popularity.

Peter Boripat, chef de cuisine, Sontaya, The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi: Thanks to Thailand being a popular tourist destination, the cuisine has grown immensely popular in the last 10 years. The food is very approachable, and it is easy to cater to almost everyone’s taste buds.

Nok Hayataphat, manager, Thai Chi, Pyramids Wafi, Dubai: Yes, it’s no secret Thai food is very popular, which I am happy to see. It appeals to all nationalities.

Is the preparation of Thai food in this region authentic or are recipes tweaked to suit a wide audience?

Amatmontri: Some of our products come directly from Thailand, but we do adjustments for the recipes. We try to incorporate some vegetables grown here in Dubai or the region to support local farmers and businesses. We balance our cooking, especially the levels of spiciness; guests can request how they want their meals. We’re also willing to accommodate dietary meal requirements of all our guests without compromising the authentic Thai flavours.

Boripat: While the preparation method is somewhat authentic and similar to the old way of cooking, recipes nowadays have not only been tweaked to suit local audiences but also upgraded to enhance the dining experience. A tom yum soup cooked using shrimp stock will definitely have a richer and more delicious taste than the traditional way of using plain water.

Hayataphat: We have a great team of Thai chefs so we keep our recipes as traditional as possible, but of course in Thailand the food is a lot spicier. We do get request to have a few of the dishes not so spicy, which we are happy to do.

Supachai Tontsoontern, Thai executive chef, Sukhothai, Le Meridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre: We strive to be extremely authentic in our offerings. The only exception is that our staff members ask guests about the potency of the chilli content in the dishes to suit the individual palates. As you know, Thai cuisine is quite spicy.

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Do you rely on importing ingredients or are there local products used on the menu?

Amatmontri: Half and half – both are very consistent, especially the locally-grown products that we use on the menu.

Boripat: The availability of Thai products in the local market has improved recently. In the UAE, there are several suppliers that specialise in importing Thai products, and provide to hotels as well as the local market. At Sontaya, we fly in herbs and spices from Thailand twice a week so as to ensure freshness.

Hayataphat: All of the Thai products are imported; the supply chain has got much better in recent years, which is a big help. Because the flavours and spices are so specialised it’s difficult to get any local alternatives. We grow some of own papaya and herbs in the Wafi gardens, which we use as much as possible.

Tontsoontern: We have fixed contracts with specialised suppliers, who undertake to supply us only the very best and freshest authentic sourced raw materials from Thailand. These are flown in on a daily or weekly basis.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Amatmontri: Our guests come from a variety of different backgrounds. Some guests might not be familiar with Thai food… the food, is sweet, sour, spicy, a range of flavours. Sometimes the combination of flavours we create are quite different to that of a guest’s usual meal combinations. But this is a good thing and our guests are not disappointed because many find this interesting. I believe that they choose to eat Thai food for that very experience.

Boripat: Thai cuisine is not only about tom yum, phad Thai, chicken green curry or papaya salad. There is a lot more to explore. The challenging thing is to be selective, create and introduce the dishes in ways to ensure that the customer is willing to try something new – in other words, to educate the customers about the cuisine. To do so, a chef needs to be innovative and flexible enough to make the dishes more approachable, more attractive and fun to try.

Tontsoontern: One of the biggest challenges is getting the authenticity and the flavour profiles of the Thai herbs, freshly sourced to the guests’ tables. Given that Dubai consists of a diverse population, one challenge would be keeping up with its cosmopolitan flair, especially as guests are extremely experimental. They are spoilt for choice, so we have to keep up and try to find a balance that suits the palate of every individual.

What is the latest trend in Thai cuisine, which you have noticed across the world?

Amatmontri: The newest trend is creating different concepts, almost fusion. Tapas and small dishes, small dishes are popular in many areas now, rather than bigger portions and fuller meals.

Boripat: Authentic Thai cuisine with modern interpretation using the freshest and highest quality ingredients available.

Hayataphat: Like everywhere the trend nowadays is all about healthy organic eating.

 

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