Phat Kaphrao or Pad Kaprao is also known as Phat Krapow or Pad Kra Pao. Holy Basil is called Kaphrao or Krapow in Thai Language. It is different from the normal Basil.
The differences lie in several areas with the key area being flavor. Thai basil is known primarily for being sweet. It has a strong licorice and anise note that allows it to stand out in Thai curries and soups. The anise note is so strong and so sweet that you can eat Thai basil raw.
Holy basil brings another flavor profile to the table in that it is intensely spicy, so much so that it is sometimes referred to as hot basil. When consumed raw, holy basil has a slight numbing effect on the tongue that is similar to the effect of Szechuan pepper. The flavor is more like a combination of black pepper and clove than like the sweeter notes of Thai basil. It tends to get even spicier as it is cooked.
As a stir fried dish, Phat Kaphrao can be made primarily with chicken, prawns or meat of choice. It can be a vegetarian stir fry with vegetables, with the omission of both fish and oyster sauce. Just make it with light soya and dark soya sauce. The fresh combination of ingredients would make the vegetarian dish deliver its flavour.
Let’s plunge straight into making Phat Kaphrao.
spicy red chillies
holy basil leaves
light soya sauce
dark soya sauce
chicken powder (optional)
Note: the spice level demonstrated here is on the higher side. Please adjust chillies as preferred.
Making of Stir-fried Holy Basil
Chef Vitug demonstrated the stir fry with prawns .
Having enjoyed the tangy Salad and the refreshing Soup, it was time to plunge into three of the most favoured curries of Thai Cuisine- Green, Yellow and Red Curry.
Chef showed the difference in the curry pastes, while making the three flavourful, yet distinct curries.
The basic herbs and spices that are blended to make the three curry pastes are – garlic, shallots, galangal, shrimp paste, kaffir lime rind, coriander root, cumin seeds, lemongrass, salt, white peppercorns.
There is one specific ingredient that is added to the explicit curries, to make it the colour of choice.
Green curry – Pandan Leaf extract, which gives the green colour to the curry. Not red chillies, but green chillies are added.
Red Curry – Dried Long Red chillies give the red colour.
Yellow Curry – Red chillies are added for spice; freshly ground turmeric is the key ingredient for the yellow curry.
Flexibility to combine with vegetables, meat or sea food
Whether one desires a curry with vegetables, or has an appetite for non-vegetarian stuff – feel free to experiment. The aromatic blend of spices goes well with vegetables, meats, fish and prawns alike. The extravagant taste comes from the final amalgamation of rich and creamy coconut milk with the spice paste.
These are a few common combinations-
Green Curry with vegetables
Red Curry with Chicken and Eggplant
Yellow curry with chicken and potatoes
The video shot was that of Thai Green Curry. In order to show the colourful variation the paste makes, when mixed with coconut milk, I share these photos…
Making of Thai Green Curry – VIDEO
That truly simplified cooking Thai curries. Didn’t that!!
The next on my learning list was a soup, after salad. Tom Yam is a much sort after Soup. Packed with citrusy punch and flavours of Thai herbs, it is a refreshing soup usually made with shrimps. But, Tom Yam can change roles and still be appealing to your palate-
a) Cook as a vegetable soup with shallots, tofu and mushrooms (avoiding fish sauce);
b) try other combinations like – chicken, lamb, or meat of your choice;
or c) make it a meal, with noodles in the soup.
These are the basic spices and other ingredients for preparing Tom Yam Soup- (except the pandan leaves in the end – reserved for our dessert later)
kaffir lime leaves
For the proteins-
and for garnish –
for the special Thai flavour
tom yam paste
and chicken powder, which is optional
Tom Yam Goong/Thai Tom Yam Soup with Prawns
Getting things ready for Tom Yam
Making the soup
Making Tom Yam
Boil stock (of your choice)
Add cut lemon grass, kaffir lime leaf, galangal and red chillies
While the stock boils well, add prawns and straw mushrooms
Season with lemon juice, fish sauce and tom yam paste and let the prawns and mushrooms cook well
Once done, add coconut milk and chicken powder (if preferred)
The soup is done. Add chopped parsley and switch off stove
Serve hot garnished with chopped coriander leaves.
Food Industry is huge, with a capital H. To sustain in a society of varied culinary interests, plus to sail across the ever rising wave of competition is a volcanic task. The hard work and struggle to bring up a restaurant and also, remain popular in the food industry, for several years is certainly a huge victory.
The Royal Orchid Group of Restaurants, is a Hugely successful Chain of Restaurants in Abu Dhabi. After coming to Abu Dhabi, I have seen the flavours of the restaurants under the group, spread aroma in several of the social occasions.
We have been mesmerised by the enthusiasm and zeal of the Founder and Owner of the Royal Orchid Group, the Septogenarian Mr. Vinay Varma and his Dynamic Lady Mrs. Nira Varma.
So, when the Captain of the Chain Mr. Varma, accepted my request for a learning session of some of their speciality foods, I was elated. When he left it to me, to choose from any of their restaurants, my greed to make the best use of the opportunity knew no limits.
Below are the speciality restaurants under the big roof of Royal Orchid Group.
I chose, one of my favourites- Thai. A very big Thanks to their open-mindedness..
Thai cuisine might be one amongst the most popular cuisines around the world, next only to anybody’s own native food. The freshness of ingredients and aromatic flavours of the spices, would rule your palate for several hours.
Having lived in Cambodia, we have been fortunate to have savoured several dishes of South East Asian cuisine. As a blogger, I have certainly been lucky to have learnt a few distinctive dishes and sweets of Cambodia.. like-
Neighbourhood Thailand, it’s history and flavourful food are always a big thumps up for me. I wrote three travel posts on Bangkok- its historical places and food, way back in August 2013 (The Charming Capital of Thailand). When I read that post now, I see that I’ve written about tasting Brown Rice, Crispy Fried Mushroom and Spicy Vegetable Curry/ Yellow Rice, Chicken in Spicy Curry and not to miss the desserts – Sticky Rice and Mango and Coconut Ice cream.
So, here I am, in Abu Dhabi, ready to learn a few more Thai dishes. Life has been very kind to me…isn’t it?
Royal Orchid is a Chinese and Thai restaurant, which has the logo- Inspired by the Far East. That truly suits me too! With elegant interiors and comfortable seating arrangements, it boasts of authentic Chinese and Thai flavours – straight from wok to your plates.
I requested for a workshop/demonstration on a full course Thai Meal with- a salad, a soup, a curry, a stir fry and a dessert, which I chose from few of my favourite dishes.
Chef Vituk of Royal Orchid, who hails from Thailand, was a very patient, grounded personality. After meeting a few chefs recently, I think, patience is a virtue of Chefs. And, they are more than that. They are specialists in the art of combining traditional and contemporary flavours that surprises customers. They present the simplest of dishes in exceptional ways that enthrals food connnaisseurs. Above all, they are blessed with the culinary art that embraces our appetite.
Let me share the dishes I learnt one by one.
I. Thai Green Papaya Salad – three ways
Som Tum Kai Kem – Green Papaya Salad with Salted Eggs
Som Tum Sua – Green Papaya Salad with Rice Noodles
Som Tum Phoo Plara – Green Papaya Salad with Salted Crab
I have also uploaded videos that show the making of Thai Green Papaya salad, demonstrated by Chef.
mortar and pestle
and the grating technique
The basic ingredients for the different versions of papaya salad, remain pretty much the same. Slight differences in the choice of sauces and spice level make the variations taste better.
long red chillies
Normally, fish sauce is added. But here, if one wishes to prepare a vegetarian papaya salad, omit the eggs and fish sauce. Instead use a salad dressing, which might be a combination of light soya sauce and palm sugar.
The spice level of this salad is on the higher side. I would suggest reducing the garlic and chillies, if one prefers a medium spiced salad.
The art of grating papaya for the salad
Keep the grated papaya in ice cold water, for at least 10 minutes. This helps keeping the vegetable crunchy.
1. SOM TUM KAI KEM – GREEN PAPAYA SALAD WITH SALTED EGGS
making of the salad
2. SOM TUM SUA – GREEN PAPAYA SALAD WITH RICE NOODLES
making of the salad
3. SOM TUM PHOO PLARA –GREEN PAPAYA SALAD WITH SALTED CRAB
making of the salad
Thanks Chef. That was an amazing experience. But, plenty more to come. Come along with me..
Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor, in Nation Towers is already one of the most sort after restaurants, for a fine dining experience with beautiful view, overlooking the Corniche, Abu Dhabi.
With New Year 2020, Abu Dhabi welcomed another elite restaurant, Khazana – Grain of Salt,that provides the ever popular Speciality Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s exclusive signature dishes. Now, the aroma of flavours, from the culinary creations of Chef Sanjeev Kapoor can be enjoyed at WTC Mall.
The Non-alcoholic Bar Area and a comfortable mocktail/coffee corner
They say Food unites Boundaries. Looking at the menu at Khazana, one is bowled over by the representation of different regional and ethnical cuisines, across the world. This doesn’t stop with representation, but the food here actually symbolizes multi-cultural Fusion. Take for example – the Mushroom Bakhlava or Falafel Chaat.
Catchy combinations like Nalli Rogan Josh Tagine, Kappa Pot Roast, Uppukkari Pot Pie are distinct.
There is also Mishti Doi Brulee – that unites Bengal and France.
Fascinated by such mix and matches, I tried to explore some South Indian combinations that might work out- a Filter Kaapi Fondue or Chutney Cheese Cake? Why not!!
Here are a few of the delectable dishes, that we savoured at Khazana.
Few of the starters-
Khumb Palak and Corn ki Tikki
Quinoa Methi ke Tikki with Pumpkin Sauce
Beetroot Peanut ki Tikki
For the Mains-
Choice of Breads
Somehow, missed to click the Nimbu Dhaniya Kukkad.
To end with sumptuous desserts-
Chocolate Crush Pile
Slow cooked black gram, which is popularly called Dal Makhani or Maa Ki Dal is named 24K Dal. While I was amazed by the name, Chef tells me with a smile of pride- “Ma’m, Pure Gold is also known by 24K”.
Khazana, Grain of Salt has its recipes, moulded to perfection and hence, shines as Pure Gold, in the intention to provide age old recipes, with contemporary twist.
Would my Bahrain trip be a satisfied and complete one, without visiting one of those very popular Halwa Shops of the country? Certainly not.
Bahraini Halwa, is one of the most sort after sweets, during festivals and social gatherings, not only in Bahrain, but around the whole of Gulf region.
The strong resemblance the Bahraini Halwa has with the Bombay Halwa, that we savour back home, is a matter of cullinary research. I remember, when sweet boxes were brought by friends and relatives, while visiting our home, the Bombay Halwa wrapped in a transparent wrapper, orange or yellow in colour, would be the most sort after. It was always reserved for relaxed chewing. The highly glutenous texture of the delicacy, was the most attractive feature, I think. Chewing it slowly, enjoying the flavour it spread inside the mouth, still lingers in my mind.
Bahraini halwa is a direct descendant of the Omani version, introduced to the local cuisine more than 90 years ago following visits by Bahraini pearl divers and fishermen to Muscat.
The Halwa Showaiter – the Pioneer Sweet Shop of Bahrain, has been in the business of making sweets since 1850. When you travel, in and around Manama, as we did, one would come across a number of Showaiter Halwa Shops, which belong to the several cousins of the Showaiter family.
The factory of the Hussain Mohammed Showaiter Sweets, is located in an area called Muharaq, about 5-6 kms (around 15 minutes drive time) from capital Bahrain. A visit there, was a -‘ must do’ one, since they offer a gastronomic tour to their factory. Yes, the Showaiters are kind enough to allow tourists and connoisseurs, visit their kitchen, view, click pictures and take videos of the making of their speciality Bahraini Halwa.
I certainly didn’t want to miss the chance. It was not a dream come true, but a treat come true.
So, this was going to be my Halwa Workshop – to know about the making of the very famous Halwa of Bahrain.
Come along….it’s going to be an interesting, sweet journey..
First, the ingredients..
The basic ingredients that go in the making of the basic Halwa are,
And, depending upon the variety of Halwa, for example pomegranate halwa, apricot halwa, fig or milk halwa – the speciality ingredients are added.
The two most popular Halwas are the Saffron Halwa which has cashew nuts, which is orange/red in colour, and the King of Halwa – which is green in colour loaded with almonds.
The Halwa is made with two to three members, taking turns to stir the mixture in the huge copper vessel, filled with ingredients.
First, water is poured into the vessel, and sugar is added.
After a boil, the other ingredients – corn starch, oil, rose water, cardamom powder, food colour and nuts – are added, one after the other.
The initial thin liquid, becomes thicker and stickier with time. This process requires non-stop stirring and hence, is a tedious one.
Once, the required consistency of the halwa is achieved, the halwa is poured in large containers and taken for packaging.
The videos below, show the making of the Halwa – the stirring and the continuous process of making several batches.
This video below, shows the packaging of the two special types of Halwa – saffron and almond halwa.
the packed boxes, ready to be transported…
and the super delicious gooey halwa…
The packed halwa, sets well inside the box..
On the way to the entrance of the office of the Showaiter’s in Muharraq, there is a shop which displays the century year old tradition of halwa making, that is exclusive to the family.
They have preserved the utensils used during the initial years, in the making of Bahraini Halwa.
Halwas to taste and the different types they make-
This Halwa workshop, indeed made my Bahrain trip a complete one- opening new windows to my primary interests -history, culture and cuisine.
This year’s Pongal – the Harvest Festival of the Tamils, was a special one for me. After posting my experience of Pongal in Cambodia , way back in 2014, now, I am delighted to post my experience of Pongal in Abu Dhabi, in 2020. Pongal was celebrated on 15th January.
Abu Dhabi, as many of us know, is a place very close to a South Indian’s heart. I recall a few lines I already wrote in one my previous posts – Navaratri in Abu Dhabi–
Living in Abu Dhabi, one doesn’t feel out of homeland, with millions of Indians, especially South Indians quite huge in number. But, it is certainly an amazing place where festivals are celebrated in their best traditional way, with undoubted authenticity.
The same feeling of being at home, was felt during Pongal too. Firstly, there was a Pongal celebration by local Tamil Community, at Khalifa Park, Abu Dhabi on the 10th of January, 2020. That gave a great start to the essence of our own Harvest Festival. There are a few more to join, in the coming days as well.
Apart from the events, that give a welcome feeling of being part of one’s own society, one of the most essential things to celebrate a traditional festival, is the availability of ingredients – exclusive to one’s native soil.
So, first step – I listed down the necessary things I needed to buy, for an authentic, traditional celebration – almost close to home, but away from home.
My list –
Pongal Paanai – a new Mud Pot to make Pongal – The sweet rice pudding
Manjal Kothu – Fresh Turmeric with the root and leaves, to tie around the pot
Inji Kothu – Fresh Ginger with root and leaves
Karumbu – Sugarcane
Panakizhangu – Palmyra Sprout
Maavilai – Fresh Mango leaves to make Thoranam or decoration in the house entrance
Fresh traditional vegetables of Tamilnadu
Now, Rice, Jaggery, Banana, Coconut and vegetables are abundantly available in Abu Dhabi. Hence, the concern of getting those didn’t pop up at all.
My longing to make Pongal, in a new mud pot was fulfilled by Dar Al Meena Food Stuff Trading, located in Sharjah, which delivers organic produces from Tamilnadu, every week, on different days to different parts of the UAE. Click here to know more about the shop.
They deliver required native produces to Abu Dhabi every Sunday. So, my anxiety to get these trademark Pongal Agro products, was sorted out very quickly.
This post is not going to be one, with a recipe. But this one is, to share my happiness and fulfilment that resulted in this year’s Pongal celebration. Happiness, not because I could get those quintessential things – but specially and more specifically because, I could show my daughter, at least a glimpse of Pongal – the festival, so earthy, and so close to our roots.
Pongal is so special to the Tamils because, it is an ancient, non-religious, traditional festival, that is very strongly connected to the earthy aroma of our native soil. It is the Harvest Festival as well as a Thanksgiving Festival. Though, it is a festival in which the farmer is thanking his own eco system of nature, including the Sun, Soil and Cattle, for providing the strength to achieve best yields. In turn, it is our duty to thank the Farmer, who produces the grains and vegetables we consume daily. Then, isn’t it very important to make our next generation value the sheer Hardwork of those humble souls, without whom, our filled plates with nutritious food and satisfied palates after each meal wouldn’t be achievable?
These are the things I procured from the shop, including my first priced possession of the new year – my Pongal Paanai/Mud Pot.
Pongal in Abu Dhabi
The quintessential things –
mud pot, coconut shell ladle, the pirumanai to place the pot, fresh turmeric with root and leaves, fresh ginger with root and leaves.
my priced possessions – mud pot and coconut shell ladle
Seasoning the Man Chatti/Mud Pot
After soaking the mud pot in water overnight, I washed it well with gram flour using coconut scrub. The next step, in the process of seasoning the mudpot, I fried grated coconut and nei/clarified butter. This aids in removing any mud, impurities and also makes the pot stronger. Coconut and nei/clarified butter, would provide a nice aroma to the mud pot, while making sweet dishes in future. This is because, the clay would absorb the flavour and aroma of the things fried or cooked first, for the rest of its life span. I discarded the fried coconut. Then, washed the pot with the coconut scrub and gram flour. Man chatti/mud pot is ready to make Sarkkarai Pongal, in fact every year.
Rest of the products – Karumbu/Sugarcane
Panang kizhangu/Palmyra Sprouts
Maavilai/Fresh mango leaves and Maavilai thoranam
the vegetables and different kinds of rice – mappillai samba, hand pound white, hand pound brown
Making Sarkkarai Pongal
I made Pongal, with 3 cups rice and approximately 4 to 4 1/2 cups jaggery. Too much for a nuclear family. But, the joy of sharing with friends during such festivals is the true spirit of celebration.
To start, I tied the fresh turmeric root with leaves to the neck of the manchatti. Placed the man chatti with water to boil, on the stove. A tip here – Add sufficient water for rice to cook… this is not pressure cooker cooking.. so no water measurements. Add water in between, if water is insufficient to cook rice.
Sufficient water and washed rice immersed in it.
Meantime, I kept the jaggery with water on stove. Once water boils and jaggery is completely dissolved, switch off stove. We shall strain later, directly into the pot.
Checked the rice off and on, until it had become soft
After a few minutes, the rice had become thicker, with most of the water absorbed while cooking;
At this stage, I strained the jaggery liquid into the pot
I added freshly ground cardamom into the rice and jaggery pongee
It was time to mix well and check whether everything was going right.
I used this beautiful coconut shell ladle, to mash the rice well. This dual purpose ladle, also serves as a masher.
I fried cashew nuts in clarified butter/nei and added to the almost done sarkkarai pongal
Sarkkarai Pongal was a thickened pudding now. I closed the lid and got ready to thank the farmers, cattle and nature – all at heart, in front of the worship area, with all family members present.
Symbolising the new Harvest – vegetables and rice
Thanksgiving Time! Pongalo Pongal!!!
After the humble celebration at home, traditional meal with rice, sambar, avial, pachadi, poriyal, vadai and pongal was the treat of the day. It was truly a festival, remembering and thanking the Farmers, and their eco system of Nature, including the Sun, Soil and Cattle, that provide them their basic means of livelihood, besides enabling us to reap the benefits of our primary food grains and vegetables.