KATHMANDU: You would not know that Mr Watana was one of Thailand’s most influential industrialists, he is humble, simple and was in Kathmandu with his colleague Mr Pongthep; they were following the footsteps of the Buddha. I am of the belief that faith is important but the inner man must be fed so I took them to Krua Thai in Thamel which Thai experts say is among the best restaurants in Kathmandu. Krua means kitchen.
Mr Watana, Mr Pongthep and the Chef huddled together and came up with a menu that filled the evening with savoury delights, almost as wonderful as Mr Watana’s Ming, Tang and Ching, dynasty Imperial porcelain collection that has made him toweringly famous internationally as a collector and expert.
We get all our ingredients from Thailand, said the late Chef’s successor as we tucked into a salad made from shredded papaya sprinkled with dried shrimps that had a dressing that was as tangy as an affair of the heart, sometimes sweet and sometimes spicy.
The Tom Yam Koong is a soup is not only famous, it’s good for your health, said Mr Watana. It can prevent cancer, because it has herbs of so many kinds. The soup is so fantastic and so full of different flavours that it justly deserves becoming an international favourite. It has got lime leaf, lemon grass, a herb called Kalenka, chilli paste, lemon juice and fish sauce.
Mr Watana and Mr Pongthep had ordered giant prawns tossed in fried garlic and black pepper. There was an elusive dressing that was faintly present and bound the dish together. Mr Watana declared it to be even better than its Thai equivalent.
If you are a tourist and you come to Bangkok you will have to sample the Pad Thai which is noodles stir fried with dried shrimps and eggs, said Mr Pongthep. It was piquant and the taste buds went wild as the tofu and the fish sauce and the peanut powder hit you one after another. There are many types of fish sauce and Krua Thai imports them all.
As we talked we sampled the spinach quickly stir fried in an oyster sauce that was as collectable as a Buddhist amulet but did not last as long. The spinach was made even more green and even crunchier by the subtle oyster sauce.
I insisted we sample the green and red curries. If Mr Watana was disappointed by my predictable order he did not show it, so exquisite are his manners: As fine as Imperial porcelain and reflecting his collection, I suspect taste and care run in Mr Watana’s family.
The green curry combines eggplant and meat in a sauce that has coconut milk, fish paste, sugar, yam leaf and green paste and chil1ies. I asked what was in the green paste and was told that it is a ready mix import. The green curry is spicy hot.
You will find that the red curry is not as spicy, said Mr Watana.
The red curry paste too comes ready made from Thailand. As if to confirm it, as we left he gave Mr Watana, Mr Pongthep and me leaflets that said, our late master chef Mr Wichai Kamnerdtan from Thailand, has had 12 years experience cooking authentic Thai cuisine in Nepal.
Mr Watana and Mr Pongthep are in Bangkok now and after seeing the wonders of Swayambu, Baudha, Patan and Lumbini I wonder if they remember their evening in Krua Thai and their claim that the food they eat in Kathmandu was as good as it gets in Thailand.
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