The superb dishes at next month's Bangkok chefs charity will have some surprising local ingredients in them
IF PREVIEWS of the Bangkok Chefs Charity coming up on March 3 have set your tummy rumbling, reading about the fantastic ingredients they’re using will only make the rumbling louder.
But have a glass of water – you don’t want to spoil your appetite – and read on.
The ninth annual fund-raising event will have 20 top chefs from five-star hotels and Thai Airways International serving a 10-course feast in the Royal Ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok.
What’s going into the feast is impressive. Gourmet One Food Service (the event’s main sponsor) is importing ingredients from around the world, to be combined in many instances with camellia seed oil from PatPat and pesticide-free vegetables from the JanKaPak royal project in Chiang Rai.
JanKaPak, the vegetable brand originating from the Prince Chakraband Pensiri Centre for Plant Development just outside Mae Sai on the Myanmar border, derives its name from that of the Prince, a scholar and agriculturalist.
The 54-acre centre operates under the auspices of the Chaipattana Foundation and was initiated by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to commemorate the centenary of Chakraband’s birth.
Bhakamol Rattaseri, assistant treasurer of the foundation, explains that Princess Sirindhorn regularly brings high-quality seeds back from her overseas trips, which the centre further develops.
“Since the centre opened in 2009, we’ve had good reason to be proud of the many product yields,” she says. “We’ve provided local farmers with good vegetable seeds to cultivate for their own consumption and for the market. We can also help other royal projects in need, as when their cropland is damaged in natural disasters, for instance.”
Maejo University, Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna and other schools help the centre develop and cultivate the seeds for a wide variety of produce, including pakchoi, kale, chillies, eggplant, tomato, loofah, bottle and wax gourds, salad greens, glutinous corn, black sesame (mor gor 18), yard-long beans and golden watermelon.
“Lots of tomato, asparagus and pumpkin varieties are successfully grown,” says Bhakamol. “The farmers use these seeds, then gather their own supply of new seeds, thus reducing costs because they don’t have to buy expensive seeds from the market.
“Princess Sirindhorn has bestowed names on each menu item using these vegetables, such as Gang Som Pak Ruam [sour soup with mix vegetables, fish and tamarind paste], so in this field we’ll grow the different types of vegetables for this one dish. There’s also Gang Lieng [spicy vegetable and prawn soup] and others using corn, loofah, hairy basil, and so on. Salads will be made with red oak, green oak and the like.
“And every royal project gives the same priority to making the food safe, free of pesticides and capable of being grown locally. The idea is to improve people’s wellbeing and promote sustainable living.”
A surprising entry on the menu using JanKaPak ingredients is soup made with agasta (also known as agati, dok khae in Thai).
“The taste is a little bitter,” says chef Antony Scholtmeyer, “but we’ll also use lemon marmalade, smoked mascarpone cream and dried bellota [ham] to add other dimensions of flavour, make the soup richer and reduce the bitterness.
“The lemon marmalade actually creates a nice balance with the bitter dok khae, so a sweetness comes out. Agasta is a unique ingredient, normally served in stir-fries, but chef Jan Van Dyk came up with this clever idea for the soup.”
Bhakamol says it’s her favourite item on the menu. “It’s quite amazing to taste dok khae in this creative Western style,” she says.
For his dish called Root and Duck, chef Kevin Thomson uses JanKaPak beetroot and PatPat tea oil.
“The beetroot is roasted and combined with pickled radish, a little citrus dressing, beetroot gel, horseradish cream and dukkah [an Egyptian condiment]. The duck breast is cooked slowly, then pan-fried and thin-sliced on the plate.
“With the farm in mind, we chose the vegetables we wanted to use first, which is a backward way of doing it. Normally we decide on the protein and garnish first.
“We marinate the beetroot with the duck and add the dukkah, which contains cumin, coriander seed, sesame seed and hazelnut. It provides a contrast of textures and goes very well with the beetroot and duck.”
Chef Gaetano Palumbo took inspiration from Thai culture and the royal projects for his Potato Tortelli, a wonderful concoction of spuds, goat cheese, celery and rocket greens, with royal-project mushrooms arrayed to resemble a mountain forest.
“It’s very smooth and has a touch of elegance with the potato foam,” he says. “The flavours are kept clean and clear, so you can identify three or four different ingredients in your mouth.”
Just as thoughtful is the Poached Rougie Foie Gras prepared by Michael Hogan and Mark Hagenbach, served with double-boiled black chicken, Thai mushroom broth, Iberico shavings and Chinese date chutney.
“Normally we pan-fry foie gras, but this year it’s poached. It takes eight hours to make the broth using Chinese herbs, Goji berries and mushrooms,” says Hogen. Hagenbach adds that the dish is also a “celebration of the Thai-Chinese community”.
“Foie gras when it’s pan-fried over very high heat releases a good percentage of the fat, but when you poach it, the fat is retained, along with the protein, and the texture is very different.”
The PatPat camellia seed oil produced by the Chaipattana Foundation is suitable for all types of cooking, even desserts. Chefs Philippe Keller and Pierre Andre Hauss use the oil in their “Ivory”, a chocolate sphere dusted with matcha tea.
Patcharin Hame-ung-gull, managing director of Gourmet One, is pleased that two royally initiated agricultural development projects are playing a big role in the event this year.
“Realising the high quality and health benefits of the ingredients from the royal projects, we need to do better marketing and raise public awareness, and these high-profile chefs can help us with that.
“The outcome will be fantastic. The chefs are passionate about raising money for underprivileged children. All of us are doing this wholeheartedly and no one is deducting for expenses. In the past eight years, donations have totalled nearly Bt100 million, so we’re really looking forward to this year’s event.”
- Tickets for the 2018 Bangkok Chef Charity cost Bt12,500 and there are 10 seats per table. Call Gourmet One at (02) 403 3388, extension 511, or (085) 152 6857 or email email@example.com.
- The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok can be reached at (02) 659 0302.