An ode to the indigenous cuisine and culture of Southeast Asia
Food unites different cultures all the more when history and culture on many levels is reflected in the most coveted menus. As the nation’s capital recovers its vibrant food scene, Southeast Asian regional cuisines are best at saving an array of delicious recipes inspired by local herbs and ingredients from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Kerala and Sri Lanka. Thai seasonings like shallots, garlic, red peppers, fresh cilantro, chili powder, galangal, makrut lime leaves or Sri Lankan cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, among others, add to the culinary canvas.
“Cooking a Kerala-style duck curry or tossing a duck salad with Thai herbs and tailoring it to the local Indian palate are the trickiest. You have to be careful to keep the moisture in the flesh and avoid overcooking while achieving great flavors, ”says Chef Veena Arora, head chef at The Spice Route, The Imperial, New Delhi, who runs a menu of duck tasting until December 17th. Some unexplored traditional dishes are part of the menu adapted to local flavors.
Duck as a product, explains the chef, is nutritious, versatile and can be enjoyed in any form. A roast duck in beer or mulled wine is an excellent aperitif. Curries or dry roasts are best served with fresh vegetables in extremely healthy rice paper or duck with rice vermicelli and many other savory delicacies.
“It’s a favorite meat in Kerala. So I revisited a specialty in Kerala with the Tharav Pepper Fry (Tharav means duck). All the recipes are completely different from the usual recipes, usually associated with regions, ”she says. For example, the chef uses mustard greens (saag) in Thai specialties, which are usually not part of the kitchen, to adapt the dishes to the Indian way and make them healthier. Like roast duck and fresh vegetables wrapped in Vietnamese rice paper, Mee Ped Yang (Thai rice vermicelli noodles sautéed with roasted duck), Kaeng Phed Ped Yang (roast duck, rambutan, cherry tomatoes simmered with Thai red curry) , Duck Thel Dala (roast duck sautéed in Worcester sauce, tomato and peppers Sri Lanka style), Duck Rendang (roast duck with Malaysian curry).
The gastronomic scene travels through regions in terms of design, ingredients and traditions. The ambience offers indoor and outdoor dining spaces, known for the hand painted murals with vegetal and floral dyes by painters specially brought from a temple in Guruvayur in Kerala. The festival is organized with the American duck in association with the USAPEEC (US Poultry & Egg Export Council).