Thai pork chopped
traces the underlying purposes of the true spirit of Thailand's breathtaking culinary traditions
If delusion says, "I've lost my appetite," contradict it. With Thai cuisine every dish is harmonious in every aspect. Herbs, lemon grass in particular, ginger and certain chilies have over the centuries been the integral catalysts of the perfection of authentic Thai cuisine. There are certain things Thai chefs won't give up, no matter what. Pork, I soon discover, is not one of those scared cows. Kaffir lime leaves, in sharp contrast, are. Coconut is vital, but certainly not indispensable. Galangal is.
Pork, however, is a mainstay of traditional Thai cuisine -- except in the southernmost parts of the country inhabited predominantly by Muslims. Nevertheless, in deference to Muslim sensibilities, Lai Thai serves no pork, and instead pumps its clientele up with chocolate on Sundays. Apparently, for LE250 per person with one appetiser and one main course, you could eat to your heart's content of any of the chocolate promotion concoctions at Lai Thai, but only on Sunday evenings. "Our guests just love it," was the enchantress's tip.
Lai Thai reveals the hidden wonders of Thai cuisine to Egyptian eaters. The inviting warm browns, basically dark hues with eye-catching silk wall hangings glittering in the dim golden lights and the ceiling decorated with gold leaf, Lai Thai has a truly Thai feel to it.
Thailand is a tropical gastronomic paradise. Yet Thai people, in sharp contrast with Egyptians, have one of the lowest obesity rates in the world. The clear cabbage soup tom juead pak kad kao is refreshing, and so is the crispy water chestnut in sweet coconut milk, but I am not sure if all Thai dishes are designed to ensure that the eater suffers fewer cardiovascular diseases. Indeed, neither peanut sauce nor coconut cream strike me as particularly conducive to health, long life and a fantastic figure. Take Lai Thai's goong satay -- marinated prawn satay served with curried peanut sauce. It is a delectable dish, and yet both cholesterol-laden and calorific. The same goes for the pratad lon sai goong -- deep fried wrapped shrimp in a mouthwatering, albeit greasy secret sauce. My favourite starter at Lai Thai, however, is equally fat-saturated Thai-style deep fried fish cakes. I like to kid myself into believing that the fish cakes are full of invigorating Omega 3 oils. "Perhaps the secret of healthy Thai cuisine is that dairy products are never added to carbohydrates," my companion, a closet Buddhist, concedes. Moreover, fermented soybeans, converted into digestible amino acids, ward off the dangers of arteriosclerosis.
We move on from the morbid and the mundane to matters spiritual. We take a moment to contemplate the perfection of the presentation of Thai dishes. Gratitude for the gift of fulfillment enhances the taste of the food. We take in the scents and sights.
By the time the main courses arrive we have hit a celestial note. "There is a subject I have purposely not mentioned, and I know I must now bring it up. I do think we need to reflect on certain aspects of Asian philosophies," my companion ventures a little peevishly.
Over jasmine green tea I ask whether, from an Islamic perspective, spiritual lessons can be learned from the Buddhist philosophy. "Yes, there are questions we should be asking ourselves, but I don't think Buddhism should necessarily interfere with our thinking processes." We leave it at that.
The most tender thinly sliced grilled beef tenderloin melts in your mouth. It is marinated in lemon and chili. The kaeng khiew wan neua, green curry with beef and eggplant, equally delightful, makes for a consummate compliment to the som tam malakaw, or green papaya salad with roasted peanuts and dried shrimp.
The redoubtable Chef Phanya Thosaunchit personally prepares the food at Lai Thai. For dessert he recommends sangkaya ta kai -- lemon grass crème brélée. Or, khao niao moon na lychee -- sticky rice doused in coconut milk and topped with lychees. Thosaunchit explains that Lai Thai is open everyday from 12-4pm for lunch and 6pm-midnight for dinner. On Fridays Lai Thai is closed for lunch, but open for dinner. He stir fries, poaches and simmers his food in such a way that inevitably leads to healthier lifestyles. "If you wish to be happy, eat at Lai Thai," he chuckles and walks away.
Four Seasons Hotel at First Residence
35 Giza Street, Giza
Dinner for two: LE380
Tel: 3573 1212