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Star Chefs: Chef Yenjai Suthiwaja of Neung Roi

Posted: Wednesday, 30 April 2014 15:15

Star Chefs: Chef Yenjai Suthiwaja of Neung Roi

Apr 30: The secret of success of Neung Roi at the Radisson Blu Plaza, rated as the best Thai cuisine Restaurant in Delhi, has been an elaborate procedure in the selection of Chef Yenjai Suthiwaja who insisted on sticking to the authentic Thai style cuisine made with the best ingredients from Thailand and fresh imported vegetables, writes Lavina Kharkwal, a member of the Delhi Wine Club

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Click For Large ViewThe striking feature about Thai cuisine, even before one has savoured a single morsel, is the irresistible smell which completely captivates the olfactory senses. In terms of taste, it has one of the most complex and sensational flavours. The profusion of sweet, sour, salty, tangy and fiery all combine to give it a very distinct identity.

The problem is that there are very few restaurants, outside of Thailand, which do justice to authentic Thai cuisine. When Subhash Arora, President of The Indian Wine Academy and the Editor of delWine magazine, invited me to Neung Roi, the Thai Restaurant at the Radisson Blu Plaza at Mahipalpur to help him finalize the menu for a Delhi Wine Club dinner and chat with the Thai Chef Yenjai Suthiwaja, I happily agreed to accompany him, since I was keen to taste the fares that they had to offer.

I have been reading rave reviews about this new kid on the block, on various forums like Trip Advisor, Zomato, Indian Food Freak, and wanted to try out personally to see if it was all that it professes to be. I also wanted to meet the Thai Chef Yenjai Suthiwaja, whose interpretation of the Cuisine is very modern and refined. She has not changed her style of cooking, or compromised on authenticity, just because she is working in India, I was told. Since she is not very fluent in English, it was the Executive Chef Sreenivasan and Director F&B Sumit Bansal, who took upon themselves, the task of telling us the story of how she was shortlisted and selected.

When Neung Roi was conceived, the management was looking for someone who had the requisite knowledge and experience of cooking dishes from all the four culinary regions of Thailand Isan, Lanna, South and Central. Chef Yenjai Suthiwaja fit the bill perfectly, with her vast experience of having cooked alongside her mother since the age of 6, and having worked at reputed hotel chains like Dusit Thani, Banyan Tree, Renaissance, JW Marriott and Novotel. For the trials, she prepared more than 800 dishes from which the present menu was chosen, keeping in mind the Indian palate. However, she put forth one condition before she joined. She wanted fresh produce from Thailand and the all the top brands of ingredients with which she was used to cooking. The hotel was only too happy to oblige.

Click For Large ViewNeung Roi is not a very big restaurant. Since the covers have been limited to 45 only, it has a spacious feel. Done up in a contemporary style in warm brown tones, the striking feature is  the low hanging chandeliers, which are custom designed only for this restaurant by the renowned Czech company Lasvit.There is an ipad menu which has a picture of each dish along with an explanation of its origin. I found it a bit daunting and confusing to use, so I asked for the regular menu.

Since Neung Roi features dishes from the entire length and breadth of Thailand, we ordered starters from each of the four regions. The first one was the Pla Yang Krue from Isan which was a grilled tilapia fish fillet wrapped in banana leaf served with chilli fish sauce. Isan refers to the North East part of Thailand bordering Laos and Cambodia. The food from this region is spicy and hot and uses chillies, lime and salt to balance the dishes, and is not tempered by coconut milk. It is known mostly for its salads like the Som Tam and Larb, dishes which do not involve much cooking. One bite into the fish and I could get the tartness of the lime and the subtle fire of the chillies.

The second dish from Isan was the Yam Tuea Plu or the Wing Bean Salad with roasted coconut & tamarind dressing. This was a revelation with its profusion of flavours teasing the taste buds playfully, sometimes sweet, other times tangy, all combining well to making it a sensual experience. The complete absence of oil in the salads meant that one could tuck in sans any guilt. We also tried the Yam Som–O which was a Pomelo salad with crispy onion, garlic & palm sugar tamarind dressing. This, however, lacked the punch of the Wing bean Salad.

One other starter which is worth a mention is the Moo Yang, grilled pork with coriander roots and roasted chilli sauce. This was from the Central region of Thailand which is characterized by mild, subtle and more balanced flavours. The pork was grilled to perfection retaining the juices with a slightly crisp skin.

The next item was the soup, which for me personally is a simple test to judge if a restaurant is serving authentic Thai Cuisine. I ordered the Tom Yum Goong, a soup most Indians are familiar with. What passes off as Tom Yum in most restaurants is just some soup stock flavoured with lemongrass, kaffir lime and galangal. The Tom Yum at Neung Roi was different from the hot and spicy concoction that one is used to. It had a much more sophisticated and complex taste which I kept discovering with each spoonful.

Coming to the curries now, a segment where the spicy reputation of Thai cuisine shines through.  We ordered a Chicken Yellow Curry from the Southern region of Thailand. The food from South of Thailand is different from the Central Thai food, and is more akin to Malay cuisine. Due to the large Muslim population there is more use of chicken and mutton and seafood rather than pork, with abundant use of coconut cream, turmeric and caramelised onions. I found the curry to be mild yet flavourful, with the taste of peanuts coming through, and the sweetness of the coconut milk acting as a foil to the spicy flavours.

The other curries that we tried were the Gaeng Prik Moo, an Isan style Pork curry with raw papaya, kaffir lime and spices, and a Prawn red curry with eggplant called Gaeng Ped Goong. Click For Large ViewWhat was remarkable was that each of the curries had a distinct taste. This was due to the freshness of the ingredients used since this is at the heart of Thai cuisine-especially in this restaurant. We were told fresh herbs like Thai Basil, Lemongrass, Kaffir leaves, Tamarind, Ginger, Galangal, Bird’s Eye Chilli, Peppercorn and Thai vegetables and tropical fruit are flown in from Thailand every Tuesday and Saturday. All other supplies like Jasmine rice, palm sugar, fish sauce etc are procured by the hotel directly from Thailand, twice a month. All dishes are prepared after the order is placed by the guest thus helping in maintaining the freshness of flavour.

One dish which had us completely bowled over was a dessert called Tub Tim Krob which was water chestnuts in coconut jasmine syrup. The presentation was eye catching as was the taste, which left you wanting more.

Neung Roi, which means 100 in Thai, scores close to it, in terms of the variety of dishes served from across the length and breadth of Thailand. In terms of authenticity, it gets a close 90, with the flavours being more subtle, yet complex, than what the Indian palate is used to. The credit for finding this remarkable lady Chef Yenjai Suthiwaja goes to the Executive Chef Sreenivasan of Radisson who toured Thailand extensively in his search for someone who could bring original dishes, never before seen at any Indian restaurant.

Lavina Kharkwal

Tags: Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza, Chef Yenjai Suthiwaja, Chef Sreenivasan

       

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