Kuheli Bhattacharya Rane
A few international cuisines have taken the world by storm, the way Thai cuisine has. Some of the reasons for that is the amalgamation of all the five tastes of sweet, salty, sour, spicy and umami in their cuisine. Not only is it a fireworks of flavour, but the cuisine also boasts of textural elements of crunchy, crispy, soft, and chewy.
So, if you have enjoyed the creaminess of a Thai green curry and have wondered how the dish is made or have had the tangy green papaya salad and revelled in the many complementary elements that go in the making of it; head to Lotus Blossom, Arpora.
Lotus Blossom, opened last season for a few months, but considers 2016 its debut season in Goa. Located opposite a petrol pump, with ample parking space it respects the shack culture of Goa. There are no walls and it is open to the elements of nature. Nothing wrong with that, except it gave mixed signals as to what to expect in terms of quality and pricing. Is it a fine dining restaurant or is it a touristy shack?
Food: On a particular Thursday every month, Lotus blossom invited its guests not only to eat a Thai meal, but to also learn how to cook one. Chef Samboon, from the famous Blue Elephant in Bangkok heads this cooking class.
An introduction to the elements which go into cooking a Thai meal, a demonstration of a full course meal including som tam or papaya salad, pad Thai or rice noodles, rice paper rolls and Thai green curry, makes for an immersive culinary experience.
We began by seeing, smelling and feeling the fragrant kafir lime leaves, galangal, Thai pea egg plants, lemongrass, bird’s eye chillies. We quizzed the chef on the difference between palm sugar and Indian jaggery and asked him about oyster sauce and fish sauce. A motley group of participants from all around the globe gathered to learn about Thai cooking.
All of us enjoyed a green papaya salad; som tam, one of the absolute staples while ordering in a Thai restaurant. It’s interesting to note that everything is mixed in a mortar and pestle. In goes the jaggery, chillies, garlic and cherry tomatoes, even the runner beans get a smashing in the mortar and pestle. The joy of making our own meal was that we could adjust the spice level to our liking. Incidentally som tam or papaya salad is part of a lot of South East Asian cuisine, and is voted one of the top 50 most delicious dishes in the world.
The pad Thai noodles were a true revelation, with almost six different sauces going in to make the pad Thai sauce. Garnished with sugar crystals, crushed peanuts and chilli flakes, this dish was a textural riot. While chef Samboon demonstrated the right way to stir in ingredients, one realises that Thai cooking is very personal. There is really no right or wrong way to make a dish. As chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s famous lines go it is ‘swad anusaar’, depending on our taste. The ratios and quantities of what sauce is added into the main dish are on approximations. And that is the art of cooking. Even though the fish sauce, the light soy and the tomato sauce all come in bottles, it is in the proportions of mixing these that every restaurant has a slightly different flavour. It is very much the way Indian food is cooked as well.
Next came the Thai green curry. This is perhaps the most frequently ordered Thai dish in India, while chef Samboon said it isn’t all that famous in Thailand itself. Most people in Thailand prefer to have pad Thai with a side dish of som tam. What was interesting to note is that the green curry paste has cumin and coriander powder in it, maybe these Indian spices make it so popular in India. With the easy availability of ready to cook pastes in the supermarket, Thai cooking is easier than ever at home. And with the easy to follow recipes given by those at Lotus Blossom, one can rustle up a meal at home.
Rice paper rolls are simple, quick ways to prepare a healthy snack. Just place a rice paper in water for a minute, wipe it with a dish towel, place your choice of salad greens, vegetables and proteins, and roll it. The rice papers are easily available in supermarkets, and once you have had a go at rolling it under the guidance of chefs, there is nothing stopping you from innovating at home.
The food at Lotus Blossom is rustic and homely. Served in very beautiful bone china, it gives an overall feel of fine dining. So to answer the question I raised in the beginning – is this a fine dining restaurant or a shack? Lotus Blossom has positioned itself comfortably in the middle, I would say. The leaf-shaped place mats were lovely too. What really stood out was the immersive experience and interactive food centric activity, an initiative not many restaurants are replicating in Goa.
Food: 3/5 plates
Service: 3/5 plates
Ambience: 3/5 plates