All Thaied up: Capitalising on the South-East Asian trend
In the last 12 months, Thai cuisine has experienced a 37% increase in sales (Source: Nestlé Food Insights) and is a trend that shows no sign of slowing in 2013, with South-East Asian food hotly tipped to be one of the most popular emerging food trends over the coming year. Huw Griffiths, development chef for Nestlé Professional shows us how easy it is to add a twist of Thai to most menus, enabling operators to benefit from this latest food trend
Increasingly, diners have first-hand experience of what were once perceived to be exotic cuisines, such as Thai. This means that it is more important than ever to be true to the dishes you are trying to recreate. Thai cuisine is renowned for its strong, distinctive aromas and flavours. To deliver a truly authentic taste without having to make it from scratch, you need specialist products developed with a specific market and a specific cuisine in mind.
Help from Huw for creative yet cost-effective ways of incorporating Thai food into menus
Back to basics:
If you’re new to Thai, stick to the staples such as a classic red or green Thai curry. Make it as authentic as possible by serving with a fragrant coconut rice, which is easy to create, simply by adding coconut milk powder into the water when cooking basmati rice.
Classic dishes with a Thai twist:
Go for the fusion effect by introducing subtle flavours into traditional dishes. For example, for a Thai twist on a classic burger, try adding a little Maggi Asian fond and some chopped mushrooms into conventional mayonnaise for an Oriental-inspired flavour.
Consider sweet treats:
Simply add coconut milk powder to a traditional panna cotta to add an exotic twist to a dessert menu staple or use in cocktails – coconut milk lends itself perfectly to white-rum based drinks like Pina Colada or Mango Colada.
Simplicity with soup:
Soups are one of the easiest ways of incorporating the South-East Asian influence into a menu. It’s as simple as adding a dash of Maggi Asian fond to water to create an instant, great-tasting miso soup. Or substitute chicken for salmon in a noodle soup, adding a dash of the fond and Maggi coconut milk powder for a Thai alternative to a classic winter warmer.
Introduce Thai tapas or sharing plates:
The very nature of Thai food is relaxed, and sharing dishes are a big part of Thai culture. Consider serving a selection of noodles with fishcakes infused with Maggi Asian fond and Thai spiced lamb skewers infused with Maggi liquid beef fond. Prawns served on a bed of coconut rice are another simple yet effective canapé option.
Create the right atmosphere:
Presentation plays a big part in creating authenticity. Remember that Thai food is generally presented in a simple and humble way. Consider using authentic service wear such as bamboo or banana leaf to bring the experience to life; or serving chicken/beef/fish on skewers infused with lemongrass to get the authentic street food taste and format.
Reflecting Thai food’s increasing popularity are the many products on the market today aimed to help the professional caterer serve up Thai dishes. Nestlé Professional, for example, has recently launched two new products – both gluten free – to facilitate Thai cooking:
- Maggi Asian Liquid Fond Concentrate
Delivers an authentic Asian flavour boost at any stage of the cooking process, be it soup, stir fry, salad, marinade or finished dish.
- Maggi Coconut Milk Powder
Works equally well in sauces and marinades as it does for coconut cream and desserts.
Thai New Year
Thai New Year – or Songkran as it is traditionally known – is celebrated each year from 13-15 April.
“In the next few years we hope that Songkran will witness the same kind of popularity as Chinese New Year here in the UK,” says Geoff Tirell, MD of Chang UK. “This is the perfect time to serve up traditional Thai cuisine, offering party packages and promotions where people can enjoy a platter of Thai snacks, accompanied by drinks.
“We have worked closely with leading Thai chef Max Piao, who has developed a range of recipes that are adapted from a Thai style of eating called gap klaem. Similar to tapas, the recipes are lots of smaller individual dishes that can be mixed and matched and shared among friends, so they’re perfect for a pub & bar environment. From steamed spare ribs, to Chang tempura prawns, the foods make a welcome change from traditional pub grub such as onion rings, scotch eggs and mini sausages. The spicy notes in the recipes are also perfectly complemented by a cool Chang or alternatively a Thai spirit, which is a more traditional paring.”
Visit changbeer.com for Max’s recipes.
With fire in their bellies, husband and wife team Andy and Pranee Laurillard defied what many would perceive as the sensible option (i.e. Andy staying in his very well-paid job that unfortunately also came with a daily commute of seven hours) and launched Thai restaurant Giggling Squid in Hove, West Sussex as the country was falling to its knees in 2008.
As other businesses have continued to struggle, Giggling Squid can now be found in Brighton, Crawley, Tonbridge Wells and Henley; and there are plans to open more in the very near future.
EC caught up with Andy and asked him to share the secrets of his success. “You don’t have to have a brilliant idea, you just have to do it better than the guys next door,” Andy answers candidly. “And that goes for the décor too.”
Certainly, Giggling Squid’s décor is not what you would expect in a Thai restaurant. Here the room is light, airy and bright with simple yet stunning wall decorations comprising driftwood found on the beach by Andy and Pranee. “So many other Asian restaurants are dark and not particularly welcoming from the outside,” observes Andy. “We have consciously made our restaurants as accessible and convivial as possible, which means that a broader spectrum
of people chooses to eat here.”
The food too is not only delicious but also accessible (with Thai tapas or a lunch tasting menu from just £8 per head) and is made fresh every day by genuine Thai chefs. Even though Pranee is Thai herself and a whizz in the kitchen, she chooses to oversee her carefully selected team in the various sites rather than cooking with them.
“We both regularly visit each site to ensure that the quality of the food is maintained at all times,” explains Andy. “We passionately believe in what we are doing, which is to offer delicious, fresh, contemporary Thai food in lovely surroundings at very reasonable prices.” Clearly their formula and hard work are paying off as the business continues to grow apace. “We identified what people wanted and we strive to provide it to the very best of our ability,” concludes Andy.