An ode to native South-East Asian cuisine and culture

As the national capital regains its vibrant dining scene, regional South-East Asian cuisines are best to saviour an array of delectable recipes inspired from local herbs and ingredients of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Kerala and Sri Lanka.

Some traditional, unexplored dishes are part of the menu adapted to local flavours.
Some traditional, unexplored dishes are part of the menu adapted to local flavours.

Food unites different cultures more so when multiple-layered history and culture is reflected in the most coveted menus. As the national capital regains its vibrant dining scene, regional South-East Asian cuisines are best to saviour an array of delectable recipes inspired from local herbs and ingredients of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Kerala and Sri Lanka. Thai seasoning like shallots, garlic, red chilies, fresh coriander, chili powder, galangal, Makrut lime leaves or Sri Lankan cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, among others add to the culinary canvas.

“Cooking a duck curry Kerala style or tossing a duck salad in Thai herbs, and adapting it to the local Indian palate are the trickiest. One has to be careful in maintaining moisture in the flesh and avoid overcooking yet attain great flavours,” says chef Veena Arora, chef de cuisine at The Spice Route, The Imperial, New Delhi, which is hosting a duck tasting menu on till December 17. Some traditional, unexplored dishes are part of the menu adapted to local flavours.

Duck as a product, explains the chef, is nutritious, versatile and can be enjoyed in any form. A roast duck with beer or mulled wine is a great appetiser. Curries or dry roasted are best served with fresh vegetables in rice sheets which are extremely healthy or duck with rice vermicelli noodles and many more flavourful delights.

“It is a preferred meat in Kerala. So, I have revisited a Kerala style speciality with Tharav Pepper Fry (Tharav means duck). All recipes are a complete departure from the regular ones, generally associated with regions,” she says. For instance, chef uses mustard leaves (saag) in Thai delicacies, usually not part of the cuisine, to adapt dishes the Indian way and make it healthier. Like the roasted duck and fresh vegetables wrapped in Vietnamese rice sheets, Mee Ped Yang (Thai rice vermicelli noodles stir fried with roasted duck), Kaeng Phed Ped Yang (roasted duck, Rambutan, cherry tomatoes simmered in Thai red curry), Duck Thel Dala (roasted duck stir fried with Worcester sauce, tomato with bell peppers Sri Lankan style), Duck Rendang (roasted duck in Malaysian curry).

The food scene trots the regions in design, ingredients and traditions. The ambiance offers both indoor and outdoor dining spaces, known for hand painted murals in vegetable and flower dyes by painters brought in especially from a temple in Guruvayur in Kerala. The festival is curated with US duck in association with USAPEEC (US Poultry & Egg Export Council).

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