Monday, April 18, 2011

Songkran Festivities. Erawan Thai Restaurant, Kota Damansara, PJ.

(no pork served)

Banana Spring Rolls
There is something magical about Chef Korn's touch that transforms carefully selected commonly found ingredients into beautiful culinary creations. When he uses exquisite ingredients sourced from Thailand, the result is magical little pieces if culinary wonder that calms the laboured mind by overwhelming it with beautiful tastes and contrasting textures. Exquisite and imaginative creations that offer a beautiful vista of the diversity of Thai Cooking Techniques and usage of both traditional and non traditional ingredients.

Pandan Wrapped Salmon
Pandan Wrapped Salmon
Perfect cooking technique and the best and freshest ingredients does not make an extraordinary Chef. Like any artist, the culinary creations of a Chef reflects upon the soul of it's creator. One can only deduce that Chef Korn has a deep reverence for Thai traditions and yet challenges himself by experimenting with non traditional ingredients to recreate the taste of Siam. Most importantly, he has a heart.

"Jai" or heart is a very important word in Thai language. One would invariably encounter this word many times daily in Thailand, being a word that is frequently used in a phrase to describe one's relation with friends and family and his relationship with society in general.

Khanom Jeen or Thai Laksa
"Nam Jai" is probably the most difficult phrase to translate. It literally means "Water from The Heart", but if I were allowed to take some liberty and offer a more meaning that is closer to the real meaning, I would say that it actually means "The essence of the heart/soul".

The Thai society is steeped in Buddhist traditions. As one steps further away from the bustling urban areas deep into the heartland, the beauty of the Thai heart is more visible having cleared away the clutter of the commerciality and superficiality that invariably infects urbanites everywhere.

A person is deemed to have "Nam Jai" when he shares his material wealth, knowledge, time, good karma and love with everybody he encounters in his life, and the "good feeling" he imparts on those he encounters. In modern slang, one way of looking at it is a person who radiates good vibes.

Perhaps what makes Chef Korn great is his abundance of "Nam Jai".

Lotus Flower Petal Salad
Lotus Flower Petal Salad
Having been unable to share Songkran Festivities in Thailand this year wuth their family, the Management and Staff of Erawan Restaurant decided to spend it the next best way. Sharing their joy with friends.

Due to work commitments, I have not been able to celebrate Songkran with friends in Bangkok for the past 2 years. I was more than glad to accept the invitation to have a Songkran lunch at Erawan, where I was treated to an exquisite lunch. Where love oozed out from every tasty morsel from the dizzying array of beautifully prepared food that our host served.

Tod Man Pla or Thai Fish Cakes
Tod Man Pla or Thai Fish Cake
Our hosts were overly generous and the choices, extensive. In the spirit of renewal and rebirth of Songkran, I think the menu at Erawan will soon see some changes.

The Salmon wrapped in Pandan (Screwpine) leaves was a clever twist as traditionally, chicken is used. I thought the fish was a bit dry on the outside, but when eaten with a dollop of sweetish sauce, it was perfect. The texture of the Fish cakes made from 3 different types of fish meat was heart achingly beautiful, with a slight give and moderate bounce.

I found the Otak Otak to be thoroughly delectable, despite not being a big fan of coconut milk. Erawan's version was very well balanced and not over satiating.

Knotted Long Beans
Nam Prik Kaapi or Sambal Belacan served with various condiments
The Lotus Flower Salad was as delicious as it looked. And yes, the petals can be consumed despite misgivings by Tennyson and Homer, it does not induce narcosis nor is it hallucinogenic.

The gossamer light Khanom Jeen noodles screamed for some divine Green Curry Chef Korn is famous for. It came served with the usual condiments with the exception of pickled vegetables/mustard greens.

Australian Beef and Thai Eggplant Salad
The Banana Spring Rolls was delightful surprise, with razor thin and crispy skin. It had me gasping in awe.

Both the cockles and Australian Beef Salad was a welcome respite from the current hot spell we are experiencing in KL.

Hor Mok Talay or Thai Otak Otak
In the olden days, refrigeration was a rare luxury in Thailand and food was prepared in a variety of ways to prolong it's shelf life. The Dry Curry Catfish was one of the ways to preserve fish. Shredded Wild Catfish meat is floured and spiced and later deep fried to remove it's moisture. It can be kept in airtight container for months.

Tempuraed Papaya Salad with Somtan Sauce
Yam Hoi Kraeng or Cockles Salad
Stuffed Chicken Wing
A lot of effort went into preparing the stuffed chicken, as the chicken has to be be deboned before being stuffed with vermicilli and herbs before frying.

The tempura-ed Papaya Salad should be a hit with the kids, and the dressing is sweet and not spicy.

Cod with Lotus Stem Soup
Crispy Salmon Salad and Dry Catfish Curry at bottom right
Imported Lotus Stems from Thailand were used to prepare the Coconut Milk Based Cod and Lotus Stem Soup.

Desserts as usual, was a treat and the belle of the ball had to be the Black Rose ice cream. Imported Bulgarian Roses were used and the fragrance of the natural rose essence graced each mouthful with a beautiful aroma .

Stewed Banana with Coconut Milk
Black Rose Ice Cream
Sago and Red Bean Dessert
Songkran is one of the best loved festivals in Thailand. Beyond the great water fights and parades, there is also a spiritual side to it that usually eludes the tourist. Merit making ceremonies, bathing of Buddha Statues and Monks, and a particularly beautiful ceremony called Rod Nam Dam Hua. This involves sprinkling the elder's hands with scented water as a sign of gratitude and respect to elders and to ask for their forgiveness.

The Inimitable Chef Korn
I have avoided being over effusive about their food, bearing in mind that this was a private function. But based on previous experiences, if there is one thing one can be assured of, it is the quality and passion that goes into the food. Dining at Erawan is like a degustation experience because if the ingredients are not up to standard, they will refuse to serve the food.

The Miele Guide Voting Season is on. The link to vote is available from Erawan's website below.

Despite a massive backlog of restaurants to blog about, I have chosen to blog about Erawan as the Songkran Season is not over yet!

Sawatdee Pi Mai Krab, and Suksan Wan Songkran.

Erawan Thai Restaurant
No.22-1, Jalan PJU 5/16,
Dataran Sunway Kota Damansara
47810 Petaling Jaya

Tel/Fax: + 603-614-123-93

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