The moveable feast : Tropical taste, colourful curries


The Satay was a delicate one. It had been fabulously marinated in all the goodness of a dark Chinese soyasauce, coconut milk, coriander, cloves, and curry powder. The meat was flattened and grilled on narrow charcoal skewers. They tasted of smoke and curry and yet the freshness of the meat came through. With it, we had the Papaya Salad, and its crunchiness of carrots and lemon grass, and its salad dressing, which might have had vinegar but definitely had chillies. The overall taste was sweet.

Said owner, Ganesh Dhakal of Royal Thai, “I worked my way up to owning four Thai restaurants and I’m looking for places to open more. I worked in the kitchen with masters like Wichai who brought Thai food here. And I studied Thai cooking for four years. I speak Thai better than I speak English. And I go to Thailand to buy my ingredients and to secure groups to eat in my restaurants.”

Just how successful Dhakal was is shown by the fact that his Baneshwor branch (and the first Royal Thai to be ope-ned) was full of Thais with a fair smattering of local people.

We had a bowl of the beautifully spiced Tom Yam Koong Soup with its even balance of tastes. You get a sharp, lemony flavour with a touch of ginger and some chilli paste. It is as famous worldwide as the ever present minestrone is elsewhere. In Royal Thai, there is extra kalenka or ginger and I remembered a great Thai gourmet telling me that not only was it tasty, it was a cancer preventive. Apparently the ingredients came together in some medically magical way. But the taste was enough to have us sipping just a little more, and then with our sinuses cleared we had the Pad Thai, a marvellous rice noodle dish that was slightly curried and smelt char-grilled and tasted divine.

“I eat Thai food even at my home,” said Dhakal, whose success shows that hard work pays — he was born in distant Sankhwashova.

The Penang Curry is actually a chilli paste that mixed with wondrous things like coconut milk, peanut oil and the juice of kaffir limes and fish sauce make for a dish that we enjoyed as much as the 18th century Muslim Malay, who created the curry to eat while trading in Thailand.

We also thought the spicy Mussaman Curry hit the spot. Mussaman comes from the word Musalman. Once again it was traders who landed on Thai shores who brought this curry to Thailand. The great food writer Madhur Jaffrey urges you to use waxy potatoes, boiled ahead of time to use in the Mussaman Curry, which seems to have everything in it ranging from shrimp paste and coriander and cumin seeds to tamarind paste, sugar and coconut milk. It’s a grand rich taste which you never tire of.

Of the rainbow curries of Thailand, on Dhakal’s advice, we had The Green Curry. Jaffrey says that Thais enjoy vegetables in their Green Curry especially small aubergines. And true enough Ganesh’s Green Curry had the aubergines in the curry with tamarind paste, fresh basil leaves, kaffir limes (or lemon rind), frozen galangal or ginger and freshly ground white pepper. You can imagine that tastes that come to you one after another. But the whole is better that its separate parts.

Before you leave, try the Stuffed Omelette with its many tinges and textures going from sweet to hot to fragrantly crunchy to soft and the chicken at the heart of the omelette is slightly chewy.

For all this and more, call 4781104.