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[Photo of Traders' Siamese salad]Traders Hotel's Amazing Thailand Food Festival was exactly that, amazing

Gin khao yung?

Translated as “Have you eaten yet?” this is the most common greeting in Thailand. And I must admit, it does sound better than being asked how my day has been. Instead of groping for words and an obligatory answer, I'd really rather think of food.

Which is why my visit to the opening of the Amazing Thailand Food Festival at Traders Hotel's Latitude restaurant couldn't have been more satisfying. The restaurant's F&B staff welcomed me, ushered me to my seat, and promptly got down to business by offering me a drink.

To ensure the authenticity of their Thai dishes, Traders Hotel flew in sous chefs Kriangkrai Ketjit and Sawat Chankhiao from Shangri-La Chiang Mai, Thailand. The two chefs were accompanied by a hostess, Pornsawan Manaphim (if that's a mouthful for you, she also goes by 'Joy'), who gave me a tour around the buffet area, giving occasional details on the dishes.

According to Latitude's Chef Mark Mulder, the biggest challenge for his team was sourcing the herbs and spices used for the dishes. His team had to import the ingredients from Thailand. With that solved, it didn't take the team long to prepare for the food festival. It only took them a few days to familiarize themselves with the ingredients and the Thai way of cooking.

While Thai food is predominantly spicy, don't let your taste buds fool you.“There's a big misconception that everything is spicy,” Mulder says. True enough, my palate found different flavor notes beneath the spice and heat.

For starters, I got myself a bowl of the ubiquitous Tom Yum Soup. Latitude's version was slightly milder compared to the hot and sour soup served at local Thai restaurants. Next, I sampled a portion of Yum Nua (Thai Beef Salad), thin slices of steak tossed with greens and cilantro, with a dressing of fish sauce, lime juice, sliced lemon grass, and garlic.

I also took a bite of the Yum Kai Dao (Fried Egg Salad), one of the salads I particularly liked. The salad is a combination of deep fried egg strips, onions, tomato wedges, and lettuce, fused with a slightly sweet dressing of garlic, fish sauce, palm sugar, topped with chopped fresh chili.

Moving on to the main course seemed an ordeal. With so many dishes to sample, I couldn't make up my mind. I started with the Khao Phad Sab Parod (Pineapple Fried Rice), which is stir-fried veggies and pineapple with glutinous rice.

The sweet and tangy taste of the fried rice best complimented the garlic and salt in the Moo Thod Kra Thiem (Stir-fried Pork with Garlic). It was similar to pork adobo (salt and vinegar reduction) that had a day to lock in the flavors. Another treat for meat lovers was the Kra Pro Nue (Stir-fried Beef with Basil Leaves). Thin beef strips, pickled pepper, oyster sauce, and whole basil leaves cooked together just right—tender and succulent.

I also sampled the Kaeng Massaman Gai (Massaman Chicken Curry), a Muslim dish originally from Malaysia. The chicken meat was poached in milk, and the curry paste combined coconut milk, palm sugar, fish sauce, and bay leaf with a hint of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. This dish is representative of Southern Thai cuisine, which Mulder says is hotter and has a more pungent aroma compared to Northern Thai cuisine. Try a small portion first before gorging on this dish. It is so spicy it will make your hair stand on end.

A perfect counterpoint to the strong flavors in the main course was Latitude's selection of Western and Oriental desserts. Joy asked me to try the Tub Tim Krob (Water Chestnuts in Coconut Milk), a sweet treat of water chestnuts floating in pink coconut milk, and served with crushed ice.

The Choco Fudge Bar was to die for. I washed everything down with Cha Dum Yen (Thai Iced Tea), a concoction of condensed milk, fresh milk, and breakfast tea—a better choice compared to the Pandan Syrup Juice, which I found unpleasantly sweet with a bitter aftertaste.

With each dish from salad to dessert promising a wonderful gustatory experience, gin khao yung? Even if you have, it's a safe bet that you'll be back for seconds.

Print ed: 06/10


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