On November 20, Phuket local press were invited by JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa to attend a Thai northern food cooking class at their Ginja Taste restaurant. Thanks to Marriott International, we were introduced to our teacher of the day, Chef de Cuisine Kritphan Jitmanowan, from Le Méridien Chiang Mai, who worked alongside his talented team to show and guide us in preparing four stunning and authentic Chiang Mai courses.
Chef Kritphan warmed us up with a Chiang Mai classic – Khao Soi. We got to create the curry paste from scratch with all the spices prepared at our stations. The chef shifted around his station like a ballet dancer rocks the move. In an eye blink, the aromatic curry with tender chicken meat was presented in front of us. We tasted it. The richness of coconut milk balanced well with the hot spices and absorbed into the protein. We followed all the directions and amazingly, everyone nailed it! Even when frying the noodle ball [traditionally there’s no need to make it round]! The flavorful texture of the curry and yellow egg noodle was completed with the crispy noodle ball that gave an interesting texture to the dish.
Moving from the curry, we started another authentic menu – Nam Prik Ong. The stars of this dish are nut paper (fermented soybean that is seasoned and sundried in a flat paper shape), which has a unique scent and taste, as well as tomatoes – a simple ingredient that gives the dish a natural sourness and sweetness without adding any extra lime or sugar. The ground chicken was stir-fried with a crafted paste made of spices such as dried chili, garlic, and red onions, then we added fresh tomatoes and chicken stock, simmered until the tomatoes are soft, then topped the dish with coriander and dried chili. The plate was served with a variety of vegetables and pork cracklings. Tasty!
You might have heard about a Thai menu called ‘Laab’. You may also know that it is originally from the Isaan region, but what you may not know is that the northern region also has its very own Laab recipe, which is completely different. Our next dish at Ginja was the Laab Kua.
Laab Kua is a northern style of Laab. The process is delicate and the touch of spices used in the dish makes it exceptional. We crunched the mix of spices such as star anise, dried long pepper, dried black pepper, chili powder and more as the base of the taste, then poured the mixture into a ground chicken that has already mingled with small slices of pork skin and liver. Then we hand-knead the mixed meat to make it absorb the spices well, before stir-frying the meat into the pan. The perfume of the well-blended mixture was already mouthwatering. When the meat was finally cooked, we added minced Vietnamese coriander, crispy shallots, and onions to add a crusty texture, then served it hot with fresh vegetables.
After three savory courses at Ginja Taste, it was time to focus on a dessert. Chef Kritphan introduced us to the extraordinary Nga Tum Ooi, served with Coconut Ice-cream. Nga is sesame and the sesame we used is a rare type called Nga Kee Mon, which only grows in the north of Thailand and only during winter. The rich and unique aroma of Nga Kee Mon is the highlight of the dish. We separated the sesame that we crushed into powder into two portions. First, we simmered brown sugar until it became caramel then added the sesame and simmered it more until it becomes thick then flattened it and left it in the fridge. The other half was used with sticky rice that we mashed in the mortar. Once the sticky rice became soft as dough and mixed well with the sesame, we flattened it and grilled it on the pan for a few seconds, just to create a nice crust on the outer skin. We used it as a base for the dessert, then topped it up with the sweet sesame in brown sugar caramel from the fridge sided with coconut ice-cream. Such a perfect combination to end a wonderful meal.
If you would like to experience the same journey as we did, JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa will run this promotion at the Ginja Taste Restaurant until November 26, 2019.