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Plateful of petals

Beauty with substance. That's what the Thai Flower Food Festival is all about


DO NOT let Chef Regi Mathew and his crew anywhere near your garden. If you do, the next time you will see your beloved roses, orchids, hibiscus and temple tree flowers on a plate ready to be eaten. And all this time we thought only stray cattle are hazardous to gardens. Even the bougainvillaea and the wild antigon are not safe. The Thai Flower Food Festival is on at Benjarong on TTK Road till the end of this month.

Flower cuisine is an esoteric branch of Thailand's royal cuisine that is highly refined on the lines of our Awadhi food. Forever in pursuit of beauty in cuisine, the palace cooks turned to flowers, the natural showpieces. The result was `beauty with substance.' The long list of minerals and vitamins in the common blue pea, gongura or neem blooms is impressive.

To introduce us to `flower power' three chefs have come from Thailand. The team leader, Mrs. Kobkaew Najpinij, has an impressive 40 years of experience and is a respected consultant in Thai cuisine. The others are Teeraneth Boonnak and Chantanee Chuangsuvanich who doubles as hostess to help people grasp the nuances of flower cuisine.


Sated on the fragrance of lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves, I am at a loss to choose a favourite from the selection. While the Jungle chilli (Rs.108) with its fried lime leaves and palm sugar glazed dried shrimps tugs me to one side, White pomfret with deep fried lemon grass (Rs.118) beckons me to the other. You wouldn't recognise the vazhaippoo or banana flower in its Thai garb. What glamour! What flavour! The Banana blossom salad (Rs.118) is a must try.

Assorted flower salad (Rs.118) brings a bouquet on the plate. The different flowers coated with a thin batter have very little taste of their own. Without the tangy dip the salad is a soulless shell. Actually the whole flower mania is a little too airy for my palate. But the nutrition details tilt the scales in its favour. Besides there is the visual effect too.

Crispy fried soft shell crab with raw mango salad (Rs. 298) and Fresh spring rolls with flowers (Rs.118) are case studies of how Thais get their yin and yang right. Both the crab and the flowers in a moong dal wrap hardly had any seasoning. But the mango salad and the peanut dip perked them up instantaneously.

For a totally sensuous experience go for Tiger prawns in red curry. The sweet flesh of prawns does a passionate tango with the coconut milk enriched sauce on the tongue. The price tag of Rs. 398 will help you focus on every morsel you eat. Yeah, the prices are a bit stiff, but who said flowers are cheap, especially when they come from Bangkok? Taro in coconut milk made a good ending to a dramatic evening.

Thai Flower Food Festival
Benjarong, TTK Road On till month-end
For reservation: 24322640

MARIEN MATHEW

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