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Spice girls


TALK OF Thai herbs and their eyes lit up. It is in not just their food that the herbs play a significant role in adding an altogether different aroma and taste but also in their everyday life. "Even for babycare, herbs play a big role in Thai household. If the child has cold, we boil lemon grass, lemon leaves, kafa leaves and thama leaves and give the hot steam to babies to breathe in. It is an instant healer. Also, we bathe our babies in this boiled water. While others use the Thai herbs as cosmetics, we eat them fresh," Chef Sritamai of ITC Sonar Bangla says it with so much pride.

Joining in, Chef Lertanong from ITC Grand Maratha and Chef Manee from Marriott WelcomHotel talk of how the leftover vegetables after Thai carving gets used as face masks for that porcelian look of Thai women so enviablly admired by all.

Thai fest

Getting together at the Marriott hotel in Delhi for a 10-day festival of Thai food "Thai Spice Girls" ending this Sunday, all these three lady chefs are conjuring an interesting range of food using Thai spices and herbs. From Delhi, they would move on to Kolkata to finish the festival which began in Mumbai Grand Maratha for an equal 10 days.

"Never use dry herbs or even ginger like dry galangul etc in Thai food. Thai food has lot to do with aroma and it comes only from fresh herbs," Chef Sritamai of ITC Sonar Bangla in Kolkata breaks a bunch of kafa leaves to prove that putting them whole into Thai curries is not the right way. "Always tear them apart," she instructs. Chef Lertannong from Mumbai's ITC Grand Maratha adds, "Thai food, unlike Chinese food, has to be cooked in low flame to get the right taste and flavour." Cooking in a wok, "most of it being done by Chef Manee" of Marrott here, the list of speciality dishes includes Saku sai kai (sago dumplings with mince chicken and Sriracha sauce), Hor mok phak ruam mitr (Thai spicy mixed vegetables steamed in banana leaf) and desserts like Bua lowy sam pee (poached rice, pumpkin and pandan balls in coconut milk) to name just a few. "But the sad part is, we can't use Thai chilli for Indian guests," a smiling Chef Srtamai says even as her colleagues nod. Even then, what you would get on your plate here evidently, is just as delightful.

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