Make Your Tastebuds Dance: The King & I

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It started with a phone call to ITV (now Global). The man at the other end was speaking so fast, I honestly couldn’t make out what he was saying. I asked him to send his request in a letter (yes, it was the ‘90’s, and we actually used snail mail at that time!). He was genuinely excited about his new restaurant, and he wanted to share his news with the entire city. At the time, I was hosting a mid-morning TV show called, “Good, Good Morning” (which we sometimes called, “Good, Good Grief”, depending on how the day went). I booked him, and the moment he set up in the studio’s kitchen and the cameras went live, I knew a TV star was born. His passion to share his love for Thai food was electric. And that very day, a life-long friendship was born. His name is Eric Wah, and his restaurant was The King & I.
 
Eric and I became soulmates, and as well as his frequent and very popular TV appearances, we became travelling buddies. One of our trips took us to Asia, and it included a week-long cooking course at the Oriental Hotel’s Thai Cooking School in Bangkok. What an amazing experience. You had to take a boat to cross the murky Chao Phraya River from the hotel to get to the school. Once there, we sat in highly polished mahogany desks, each proudly sporting a bud vase and single, fresh red rose. The chefs were surrounded by equally competent assistants, all dressed in freshly starched white uniforms, and they were all very serious about sharing the true art form of Thai cooking. But full disclosure: Eric and I were out late every night enjoying the nightlife that Bangkok is so famous for, and we seldom made it to class on time. In spite of that, we still managed to “pass”, and secure our certificates. The one take away for me? Thai cuisine is so intricately complex that I decided then and there that whenever I wanted a true Thai meal, I would turn to the pros, and head to the best Thai restaurant I could find.
 
So, last night, that’s what my husband and I did. Eric is seldom in Edmonton, as he is a highly ranked North American judge in the world of International Tae Kwon Do Competitions, and he travels the world in that capacity. His business partner for years has been Hoa Chung, and she is the magic behind the food at The King & I. This dynamo in the kitchen can make the special spices, herbs, and fresh ingredients into dishes that burst in your mouth in an addictive explosion of Thai flavours. The restaurant would not be The King & I without her. I’d be delighted to share the dishes we enjoyed with you. We went in for a light meal, so if you go, some must-haves (that we didn’t have tonight) should include Panudulus Chicken, which is tender morsels of chicken breast wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. My other favourite is Siu Mai, a steamed dumpling filled with minced chicken, shrimp, pork and garlic. It’s fragrant, dense, and just plain satisfying. And if you can, take some friends, because these dishes are meant to be shared. The more friends, the more things you can try. Yum! Oh, and don’t do what we do, which is wuss out and have wine. Order Thai beer- it’s world famous. Here’s what we had:
 
Som Tum: shredded green papaya salad, with large, butterflied shrimp lightly poached and served with a vibrant fresh lime dressing
Coco Tofu: I’m not a tofu fan, but I think these should be renamed, “pillows from heaven”. I couldn’t even take the picture before my husband ambushed two of the pieces from the plate. Hot, crispy tofu cubes rolled in coconut and fried to a golden brown. Crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside, kind of like a marshmallow roasted to perfection over a campfire. Served with two sauces: a mango-curry one and a creamy miso sauce.
Chu Chu Kai: tender morsels of chicken breast (only the tenderloin) stir-fried with lots of veggies and served with a sweet oyster chilli sauce. We had it with brown rice because my husband wants to eat healthily but I would recommend ordering coconut rice. It’s a dish in itself, I like it so much.

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