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Archive for April, 2009

May 2009 Edmontonians
Thai Fusion

Thai cuisine is one of my favourites because of its hot or spicy dishes. Thai food has five fundamental flavours in each dish or the overall meal: hot (spicy), sour, sweet, salty and bitter. A welcome treat for the taste buds—something different from the more familiar Chinese, East Indian and Vietnamese fare.

Thai food is often considered a single cuisine, when in fact it’s made up of four regional dishes: Northern, Northeastern (or Isan), Central and Southern. The difference shows in the dishes. For example, Southern Curries tend to contain coconut milk, whereas Northeastern dishes contain lime juice.

wah and chungWhen it comes to spices, Thai food is known for its abundance of fresh herbs, spices and fish sauce. Shrimp paste, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, ginger root, turmeric, coconut milk, Thai basil, a large variety of chillies, lime juice and coconut milk are staples in the cuisine.

Rice is a basic component of Thai Cuisine, as it is in most Asian cuisines. The much sought after, sweet smelling Jasmine rice comes from Thailand where it is grown in the central plains. Steamed rice is served with aromatic curries, stir-fries and incorporates generous quantities of chilies, lime juice and lemon grass. The dish may be poured into the rice creating khao rad gang, which is very popular when time of the essence. Noodles are also popular in this cuisine; however, they are often served as a single dish or in soups.

Protein—beef, chicken, pork, squid, shrimp and many different ocean fish—rounds out the Thai plate.

Edmonton boasts many excellent Thai restaurants. Eric Wah, the owner and creative genius behind The King and I, is perhaps the best known of all our Thai restaurateurs. His is a favourite dining spot for the Rolling Stones when they are in town, as well as many other celebrities. The food is excellent and truly reflects the incredible taste of Thailand.

Eric has opened restaurants in Calgary and Edmonton. After his original restaurant in Old Strathcona burned down in the early 1990s, he re-located to Whyte Avenue at 107th Street.

His uncle lives in Bangkok and Eric travels there once a year to source food trends and cuisine. He says the reason Thai Cuisine is so popular is because of the health benefits of the food. As hot as you like it, but it’s often stir-fried, stewed or steamed.

According to Eric, Pan-Asian fusion is taking the world by storm. Dim Sum, Sush… it’s all rolled into one now.

“It’s all fusion, not pure cuisine anymore, and that’s what makes it exciting.” He explains that, because everything is customer driven, many flavours and sauces are being intertwined. And for our palates, that’s a good thing!

I asked Eric to share his recipe for spring rolls. He obliged and explained, “Paw Pia Thawt means deep fried rolls in Thai. Each Asian country has its own recipe for spring rolls which originated from China. The ingredients and seasoning they put into the rolls are as distinct as the culture they represent. Every Thai restaurant in town put in its own special touch or secret to make the rolls stand out from the others. At The King & I, we use taro roots as our special ingredient. After steaming, the root vegetables add a fragrant nutty flavour to the ground pork; moreover, the soft texture contrasts with the chewy silver noodle and crispy outer shell when biting into it.”

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