I tried to avoid this as much as possible. At some point, I also refused to go. The Cook off between city bloggers organized by The Oberoi Grand Kolkata was a great initiative to nudge and push us a bit from our comfort zone.
I am not a cook. My claim to fame is Kosha Mangsho, which I somewhat mastered after several attempts and I was made a head cook with another blogger as a helper. Since the time, the day and date was fixed, I was curious about what we were supposed to cook – that was kept as a surprise.
The world knows Madhushree is a cook, who could have been a chef if she had taken some correct career decisions at her prime. So when both of us waddled in (we are expecting our version 2.0 in couple of weeks time and Madhushree now walks like a penguin – in her words) through the corridor of The Oberoi Grand and entered Baan Thai, I was hoping that she becomes my cooking partner. Luck was not on my side that day to camouflage my cooking inability as Madhushree joined Indrajit but I felt happy from within that I couldn’t have asked for a better partner than Pooja, whom I often call my ‘sista’, to help me out.
If ever you take a heritage walk in The Oberoi Grand you may experience this Read Here
We have met celebrity Chef Klae Somsuay before and he is sorcerer with a cauldron and a spatula at Baan Thai and he was the Master chef for the afternoon with his team. After Execuitve Chef Sourav Banerjee, briefed us about the cook off, it was Chef Klae and Chef Kezang Rai who played as our mentors. The challenge was simple. He would cook two dishes and the teams would have to replicate the same. Chef made Som Tam or the Raw papaya salad first. With a big wooden mortar and pestle, he made it look like child’s play. The next was Thai Green curry with chicken. The Thai green curry paste was already made and we started with adding coconut milk and slow cooking the paste so that the paste gets mixed up with the coconut milk to necessary thickness. Kaffir lime leaves are added for the typical Thai aroma. Boneless chicken cubes, preferably from the thigh, are added midway and then vegetables like Thai aubergine and pea aubergine and simmered away in the coconut curry. The essential balance of sweet and salt are also added with jaggery or palm sugar and fish sauce. The green curry paste is in any case high on spice. However extra Birds eye chili may or may not be added. Finally, chicken stock (if required for the consistency of the curry) and sweet basil leaves in generous quantity for the final touch.
We completed the Thai Green curry first and perhaps that’s the mistake we made as we goofed up in the thickness of the gravy and our salad lacked the spunk and juice. Poorna and Dolon came out winners. Indrajit and Madhushree were runners up basis the judgement from the delegates from the Thai Consulate in Kolkata.
We were gifted ingredients to cook Thai Green curry at home and it took no time to finish up those ingredients by trying and cooking the dish twice. The exquisite Green curry paste was saved but the hunt for the ingredients made me travel to New Market twice to pick up Coconut milk from Saha general stores – our favourite shop, Basill leaves, Thai red chilies and above all, the Kafir Lime leaves from Aparna Banerjee Paul, our good friend from The Oberoi Grand Kolkata, who is also the Communications Manager
Now I will share some of my personal learnings-
1. The trick lies in using the coconut cream to balance the spice of the Thai Green curry paste and the thickness of the gravy
2. No one underestimates the power of the Birds eye chili or the Thai chili and there is an underlying chance of the dish getting spicier to hot on the usage of the chili.
3. Chicken stock is used as an additional resource for increasing the quantity of the curry without using too much coconut milk.
4. The essence lies in the Thai green paste and if one can master that, then it’s half job done.
5. Since it’s boneless chicken, it doesn’t take long to cook the chicken. Hence cooking of the chicken is not that great a fuss.
6. We were told that if the green curry paste is raw, then it needs to be fried off in equal quantity of oil before using the paste for cooking. Once the paste is fried, you can store it in the refrigerator for longer period and use the desired amount as and when required.
This was one of the best experiences in blogging that I had till now, in fact both Madhushree and I had. No words will be sufficient to thank The Oberoi Grand Kolkata Managament, GM Mr. Sumit Joshi, Chef Klae and the entire Kitchen staff who patiently watched our histrionics (not every day you get entertained by novices cooking in your kitchen), Aparna and Megha being super cheer leaders and instilling the confidence in us during cook off that we are no less. Before it starts sounding like an Oscar speech – check out the recipe for Thai Green curry with chicken here and be ready for hearing more on this from our kitchen.