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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

A Culinary Journey into ASEAN

The magic of ASEAN appeal for visitors lies in its people, diverse colors of customs and traditions, sun- kissed heavens, sparkling emerald and aquamarine waters, lush tropical forest teeming with flora and fauna and hills and gorges, adorned with ribbons of waterfalls, that opens into an Eden of fields filled with rice plantation, orchards and wild flowers. And no wonder, the integral part of all excitement lies in dining. Here – you feast your taste buds with a thousand pleasures,

Plating up in the ASEAN countries, you dine with a total sense of adventure in a surprisingly incredible variety of food and on the side walk is the dessert and fruit section with seasonal selection of papaya, pomelo, mango, water-melon, coconut, pineapple, guava, rose apple, sapodilla and even the more exotic and native to the region: durian, snake-fruit, rambutan, dragon-fruit, jack-fruit, longan and mangosteen.

THAILAND is ASEAN’s Disneyland for gourmands.

On the offer, restaurants and cafés dishes out an amazing variety of haute’ cuisines in the atmosphere, which gives an air of romance Thai food is a combination of fresh, tasty and bold flavors. Rich aromatic Tom Yam Khung is a national indulgence, which tops the menu at restaurants across Thailand.

Tom Yam khung 

Inventive chefs have created a variety in the preparation of traditional dishes like Yam wunsen (Thai salad with glass noodle with prawn or chicken); Khao soi curried noodle soup with coconut cream enriched with pickled cabbage, lime shallots; khaeng som (Thai curry in green, yellow or red paste), khanom chan dessert with pandanus flavored sticky rice cooked in coconut mill with banana or mango – to mention a few favorites. The taste of Thai food varies in the way it is cooked and the use of right ingredients in exact amount. According to a local saying, Thai food has as many recipes as days in a year! You need to know the right addresses to experience the best in Thai cuisines. Some of the holiday villas, though may not be equipped with modern kitchen, local chefs prepare some of the best Thai food I have had experienced first-hand, worth mentioning Villa Beige Koh Samui (http://www.villabeige.com/en/ ) and Bismarck’s Paradise Phuket Luxury Villas (https://www.luxuryvillasphuketthailand.com/). Following are some of the commendable restaurants, hands-on experienced where each dish is a feast for the eye.

Villa Beige

-Rim Talay / Lotus / Amaya Café @ Amari www.amari.com
-Benz’s Traditional Thai @ Soneva Kiri Koh Kood https://www.soneva.com/soneva-kiri/dining/
-Baan Vijitt Southern Thai cuisines @ The Vijitt Phuket www.vijittresort.com
-Provence Garden, Gaysorn Village, Bangkok +62-656 1438

Benz’s Traditional Thai

INDONESIA/ MALAYSIA share the intensely flavorsome cuisines with the national passion of satay, made of spiced mince of chicken or beef pressed skewers (made of lemon grass stick) and slowly cooked on charcoal, served with peanut sauce. As diverse as Indonesia’s 300 ethnic groups, there are more than 5000 food recipes further influenced from Chinese, Malay, Sundanese, to Arab, Indian and European food culture. The Common method of Indonesian cooking is frying (goring) and grill, like most of the common dishes like ayam (chicken) goreng (fried); Mie (noodle) goreng; Nasi (rice) goring; tumis kangkung (stir fried spinach); and Nikan bakar (grilled fish).

PROVENCE Resnt@Gaysorn BKK 

A typical Indonesian ceremonial feast is called tumpeng, comprising of cone shaped mound of yellow rice in the center of the plate, surrounded with small portions of traditional food such as urap (vegetable), semur (sweet beef), ayam goreng, teri kacang (dried fish), telur pindang (marbleized boiled eggs), fried prawn, perkedel kentang (mashed potatoes), sliced omelet and more. Recommended: Contango @ The Majestic, KL www.majestickl.com

VIET NAM staple food is rice and vermicelli in fish broth. Vietnamese cuisine is of Chinese origin and comes in a variety of thick broth soups like the Pho – clear noodle soup with beef and chicken meat and spices, served with bowls of spring onion, dried beef meat, bean sprout and variety of herbs. Recommended:

Boholano Ube Kinampay Des

-FLC Grand Ha Long www.flchalong.com.vn
-Gourmet Restaurant @ Athena Cruise Ha Long www.athenacruise.com
-Restaurant on board Indochina Sails Ha Long. www.indochinasails.com

THE PHILIPPINES gastronomy scene has been transformed into inventive professional kitchens with imaginative chefs – distinct from the conventional cook-book. On the Island of Bohol, the Aplaya Restaurant at the Blue Water Panglao Resort reveal wit and verve in a modern interpretation of Boholano classics using local ingredients in food preparation. I tried and tasted the favorite Boholano platter – Bluewater Salad: a healthy serving of grilled chicken breast layered in assorted lettuce, tossed with green beans, mango, carrots, shallot, spring onion, cashew nuts in balsamic dressing and a sprinkler of peppers with a dash of sweet and sour sauce. The main course: Bohol Bouillabaisse, Sea food stew of seasonal fish served with vegetable, rouille and garlic croutons flavored with a variety of local herbs and spice. Served with side platter, Adobo Rice, comprise of fried rice with chicken adobo flakes in sauce, served with adobong bisaya. The second round is the Chef’s favorite – a Bohol specialty: Hinalang Na Manok. Chicken is tenderly cooked in onion, ginger, peppercorn, chili and added with coconut milk making the dish an island’s delicacy. The not-to-miss native favorite on the menu is Puto ug Tsokolate, a recipe to please your sweet tooth with sticky rice served with Bohol tableya hot chocolate on mango. www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph


In Manila, Food Exchange Manila at the Novotel Manila Araneeta Center is a delightful place for fine dining and a quality time. www.novotelmanilaaranetacenter.com/restaurants-bars/food-exchange-manila/


SINGAPORE food courts are famed for cuisines from around the world. Singapore is said to be the birth place of Laksa – a noodle dish, the authentic S.E.Asian recipe. An endless variety of Laksa caters to every taste. The native indulgence is the fish-head curry and a variety of noodle, which is served in traditional restaurants in Singapore.

Balinese Bagus Jati Ubud

BRUNEI’s spicy cuisine is a delicious mix of its neighboring countries: Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, with a strong hint of spices and herbs from India and China. Rice and sea-food is a staple part of the diet with chicken and beef also used in food preparation with 100% halal concept. Recommended: Pantai @ Empire Hotel www.theempirehotel.com

Vietnamese Cuisine

CAMBODIA, LAOS and MYANMAR culinary concept may lack the magic appeal on its own in its traditional menu. Innovative chefs have transformed this lack of taste through manipulation by adding pinches of Chinese, Indian and Thai flavoring. In Cambodia, Amok is authentic Khmer dish made of fresh fish fillet, served with rice, which is the staple diet of most of the ASEAN countries. Lao people migrated from northern Thailand and so does the Laotians food recipes originate from Lanna (North Thailand) cuisines, comprising of Som tam and sticky rice – the favorite on the menu. Mohinga is Myanmar’s popular dish.

China House PP

Recommended: Chinese House Restaurant, Phnom Penh. https://maads.asia/activities/chinese-house-1

Written & Photos by : Saifuddin Ismailji

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