New Year Festivities
I walked in to a pleasantly minimalistic All day dining restaurant Amara at The Trident Hyderabad and the first thing that struck me was the massively high ceilings with natural light flowing in. On a winter afternoon this is a good thing. I was invited to sample the food at their ongoing Thai Food Festival and it being my favourite cuisine, I was excited.
The Trident opened a while ago in Hyderabad and this was my first visit to their property. Live music softly playing (by a very talented girl who sang covers of Adele which in my book is a high standard to live up to), I was seated at a table that overlooked Hitech City's main road with pleasant views, any time of the day.
We were served a tasting menu of their signature offerings. We began with a refreshing lemon grass iced tea with kaffir lime leaves. Lemongrass is one of my favourite herbs and I always look forward to sampling it used in varied ways. We were off to a good start. Next came a bowl of steaming hot Tom Yum Gai, a clear spicy soup, flavoured with lemon grass, galangal and bird eye chilli. This soup can be had in Shrimp / chicken or vegetarian variant. The flavours are sharp, robust and multi layered. I enjoyed this even tho I am not particularly fond of soups. I'd decided to politely down a few spoonfuls, but I finished almost the entire bowl, because it was so good. Again the lemongrass stood out in this soup which for me is a good thing!
We were served the salad and appetizers next. The classic Som Tam - Raw Papaya Salad and a Pomelo Salad.
The flavours of the Pomelo Salad blew me away - flavoured with tamarind pulp and garnished with fried onions.Mildly sweet, sour and salty, the deep fried onions elevated the simple salad many notches. Pomelo is not easily available in the market and is rarely if ever seen in restaurant offerings. This is a refreshingly light salad.
Som Tam is usually the first item to be offered to anyone sampling Thai food and is quite well loved. The shredded papaya was crisp and the flavours nice. Well made, this salad came a far second only because of the fabulous Pomelo Salad which I would highly recommend.
For the starters we had the Chicken satay, served in a little shot glass with the peanut sauce at the bottom. I loved the presentation, but the satay was a little dry and I must say I have had better.
The Pandan Chicken was little nuggets of succulent chicken, marinated with pandan and fried wrapped in a pandan leaf. This was light, succulent and the subtle flavours of pandan shone through with no over powering of any seasoning.
For the main course, we tried the classic Green Thai Curry. Chicken and vegetables simmered in a green curry paste with coconut milk. While this is a classic dish, it is easy to get it wrong. The balance of flavours of the basil, lemongrass and galangal along with the other spices is so important. This curry is very unassuming, but very easy to mess up. I must say, after a taste of this with some Jasmine rice, I wanted to shut out all coversation and just drink the curry. It was so well made. Light, creamy with a hint of the well balanced ingredients and so many flavours, yet so subtle.
Chef Jitu Phukan who is in Hyderabad to oversee the food festival specialises in Pan Asian food. He has spent over 10 years at The Trident, Nariman Point, Mumbai's India Jones, their Pan Asian speciality restaurant. All the dishes at the festival have been carefully selected by him to showcase the best of Thai cuisine. The Thai ingredients are sourced directly from Thailand and the freshest of produce is used. For instance, their seas food is flown in daily from Vizag, to ensure they use only the best ingredients in their recipes.
Hormonk phak - Minced vegetables steamed with thai spices in the shell of a tender coconut for about 3-4 hours is a vegetarian's delight. A creamy medley of vegetables cooked with coconut milk again and steamed in the shell of a tender coconut which imparts it flavour to this dish. This again is best savoured with the jasmine rice, lightly flavoured with kaffir lime leaves.
We tasted a bit of the Pad Krapow nua - Minced beef spiced with hot basil (krapow) and thai bird eye chilli. The tender loin is beautifully complimented with the heat of the chilli and is a delightfully spicy side dish. I say delightfully because the spice adds a lovely dimension without being over poweringly hot.
The Graduk pat king mu - Braised pork (spare ribs) with thai ginger was for me the highlight of this meal. The slow cooked pork ribs, succulent and well flavoured were done to perfection. So much so that I completely ignored everything else at the table for a few minutes. This is the dish pork lovers should not miss. It is soft, succulent and flavoursome all in one go.