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Benjarong hosts cuisine of Thailand's Lanna 'kingdom'

Benjarong hosts cuisine of Thailands Lanna kingdom

Chennai: The ongoing Lanna food festival at the Benjarong Thai fine dining restaurant in Alwarpet here has quite a few surprises like a brinjal-based soup and a salad made with juicy imported guava.

"Lanna is sort of a forgotten kingdom that existed in the northern region of modern-day Thailand. The word Lanna means a million rice fields," Benjarong brand chef V. Ramkumar told IANS.

He said the name denotes the agricultural history of northern Thailand and also its cuisine. The kingdom was ringed by mountains, forests and rivers and agriculture flourished in the fertile plains.

The region was subjected to invasion by different kings. After being part of Burma (now Myanmar), the kingdom became part of Thailand, then called Siam, Ramkumar added, serving a chiang mai punch mocktail - a blend of pineapples, oranges and strawberries with vanilla ice-cream.

"We are hosting the Lanna food festival for the first time. Personally, I had done quite a bit of reading about the kingdom and its cuisine. Many of the dishes listed on our menu card are not available now in restaurants in Thailand," Ramkumar said.

By this time, the gai ping appetiser, a charcoal marinated and grilled chicken skewer, arrived at the table. It was accompanied by a roasted green chilli dip.

One can also go for ngohp bplaa chaawn - rustic grilled Thai curried fish in banana leaves served with crunchy corn salad - or the satay je - beancurd, pineapple, coloured peppers and mushroom marinated in a delicate sauce and grilled.

By the time the taster's portions were polished off, somtam farang - spicy guava salad with choice of vegetables or prawns with cashew nuts - arrived.

The guava imported from Thailand is very big as compared to Indian varieties and is very juicy and with fewer seeds.

The salad was followed by tom jeaw - a spicy fish soup with grilled brinjal, oyster mushrooms and herbs. Surprisingly one could not divine the slightest taste of brinjal in the soup.

"The brinjal is roasted and pounded with green chilli, garlic, shallots," Ramkumar explained.

The main course was the tasty kaeng pa khanun - a Lanna-style curry with choice of meat (chicken, prawn, seafood) or vegetables and young jack fruit, flavoured with peppercorn.

For the non-vegans there's goong tod med muag himapan (crispy prawns tossed with dry roasted red chillies and cashew nuts); kaeng hang lay (ancient Lanna curry with chicken or lamb, pickled garlic, shallots, peanut and ginger, a curry through Indo-Burmese route) and goong normai farang pahd namprik noom (succulent prawns tossed with asparagus in roasted Lanna green chilli paste), among others.

For dessert, khau niew lum yai - sweetened sticky rice with longans and mango ice cream - is recommended.

The Lanna food festival at Benjarong outlet in Alwarpet will end Feb 8.

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