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Amazing, simply amazing!

The "Amazing Thai Tastes" organised this weekend by the Royal Thai Embassy in Delhi, let open to visitors the real culinary flavours of the Land of Elephants, says SUMITRA SENAPATY



Arunrung Phothong.

`EATING IS an essential part of life in Thailand,' says Arunrung Phothong, First Secretary, Royal Thai Embassy, as she gives us deep insight into Thai culture - specifically how `being Thai' comes out in the preparation and enjoyment of food. Thailand's savoury, heady dishes have long been a culinary success story. Thai restaurants dot metropolitan cities across the globe, and Delhi is no exception.

First time ever Amazing Thai Tastes at the Royal Thai Embassy, Delhi, rightly set Thai cuisine in its rich context, building the case that real Thai food is one of the world's most exciting cuisines. The fair, seems like a weekend trip to Thailand without leaving New Delhi, and an ideal mix of two days of cuisine, shopping and entertainment. The story of Thai food - its distinctive ingredients, the way it is eaten by Thais, the regional variations, how to shop for Thai ingredients, street food, etc with relevant recipes thrown in - makes the cultural `food' diplomacy more meaningful and appealing to visitors.

Gourmet stalls put up by Thai restaurants in Delhi - Spice Route, Pan Asian and Bangkok No 1, etc - showcased the magnificent culture of Thailand, while the cooking demonstrations of Green Chicken Curry and Raw Papaya Salad by Thai culinary experts drew quite a crowd - for the food, the recipes and the world famous Thai fruit and vegetable carvings.

There are quite a few fruits to check out - Longan, Mangosteen, Durian, Tangerines, Star fruit, Rambutan and Crab Apples. Thai Airways International specially flew in the Thai culinary experts from Bangkok's Suan Dusit International Culinary School. With over 70 years of culinary background, the school, along with Thai Airways International, has catered at the 13th Asian Games held in Bangkok and the World Scout Jamboree in the first quarter of 2003.

"Thai food is one of the major national identities that reflects the ways of life, thinking and mind of the Thai people hidden in the piquant and sweet dishes, the variety of plants and crops, since the ancient times," says Arunrung. "So, it is but natural, that we would like to showcase it in

India, and make the Amazing Thai Tastes festival an annual event here," she adds.

But does traditional Thai cooking still exist in Bangkok? Arunrung informs us that the tradition still continues.

"At the end of the day, we do like to come home to a decent Thai meal consisting of steamed white rice, red or green chicken/meat curry, several types of vegetables, steamed or fried and a bowl of shrimp soup."

"Food is very much a part of experiencing another country and its culture and the main tourist season in Thailand is during the September to February period." Arunrung informs us that an official agreement for promoting tourism between Thailand and India is likely to take place shortly and to coincide with this, Thai Airways will introduce direct flights to Bangkok from Chennai and Bangalore besides Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. In case you go to Thailand and get hungry, head for any of these popular street food areas - Chiang Mai night market or Silom, Siam Square and Bang Lamphu in Bangkok. Bangkok and Chiang Mai are two famed shopping hubs, bursting with everything from house wares to traditional Thai handicrafts at unbeatable prices. The only downside to a spree in Thailand is lugging home the spoils. "Our people are gentle, hospitality is a way of life," says Arunrung who has successfully managed to recreate the Amazing Thai Tastes, not only through authentic dishes and traditional Thai products but also with performers and artisans from Thailand. And yet another reason to visit Thailand is the ancient Thai massage evolved from forest dwelling Brahmin hermit ascetics, that helps release blocked channels of energy and rejuvenates weary travellers.

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