I have been hibernating in the early weeks of the year, and have finally decided to surface, albeit late in January. I was in Thailand for a bit, Bangkok, to be specific, and comatose to be explicit. I then went off to Alibaug to meet the Broachas and other such pastoral cosmopolites to indulge in more of the same languor and loafing. I must say, in all that placidity, I still did manage to eat some glorious meals, in both Thailand and Raigad. We all know that most food in Thailand, even if it is off the pavement, can be much more than mere pedestrian.
If you are good to start the day with breakfast of Thai omlettes on the streets, head to Jay Fai. Believe it or not, this street food joint even has One Michelin Star and is named after its famous owner Supinya Junsuta, whose nickname is Jay Fai. I like the idea that this street side joint is open-air and decorated with green tiled walls and simple tables, stools and no fuss. When you are there, you have a queue wait for them to quickly toss up heaped up portions of their most iconic dishes. Phad kee mao talay (drunken noodles with seafood), Poo phad phong karee (stir-fried crab with yellow curry), and her legendary khai jeaw poo (crab omelet). Raan Jay Fai, the dignified septuagenarian owner, slaves over the fire herself all evening, fully made up with rouge, eye-make up and lipstick wearing oversized ski-goggles working the wok like a beast. I am very partial to Thai omlettes whether they are stuffed with chunky claw meat or oysters. I must say, hers are one of the best.
If you haven’t had your fill of eggs, the Thai cuisine has an extraordinary relationship with eggs. There’s one dish called son-in-law eggs (kai loug kheuh). Boiled eggs are fried until golden brown and served with sweet and sour sauce. If one was to believe the legend behind the name of this dish, it is said, the son-in-law eggs were invented by mother who was unhappy with how her daughter was being treated by her son-in-law. So, she served him two deep fried eggs to suggest that if he’s not careful, his jewels could be next in the frying wok. Jok Khlong San in Lak Song, in Bangkok, is open between 4pm to 11pm, and is known for its son-in-law eggs (kai loug kheuh), as well as mhoo deng, or literally translated as bouncing pork (minced pork balls). It’s comfort food with a Michelin Plate, there are a dozen types of eggs and some basics like aromatic, thick, warm bowls of rice porridge with pork.
I ended my short Bangkok vagabondage with a meal at Villa Frantzén — a modern Nordic restaurant & bar with Asian influences. A fine restaurant by old friend and the man who has changed the face of fine dining in India. Kishore Bajaj and Bjorn Frantzen, former football player and chef who runs Frantzén, a three-star Michelin restaurant in Stockholm. This beautiful restaurant is housed in an old Thai villa sitting on a couple of acres of manicured land, now renovated and refurbished to create a world-class dining space with an open glistening kitchen. The stables outside, converted into a casual high-ceilinged bar, with the most eclectic cocktails. The food itself pure Nordic, with understated class, a balanced taste structure, refinement, individuality, and an Asian twist.
Oyster spicy pumpkin condiment, smoked cream, finger lime, & sea buckthorn oil. Villa Frantzén caviar “Prestige Selection” jackfruit & coconut waffles, sour cream, dried nori & beurre noisette, and these were just the starters. What followed was a parade of the finest culinary expressions.
Flying straight from Suvarnabhumi to Mandwa and seeking refuge at Broacha Wadi was just an extension of my procrastination, only to discover that the Mandwa, Awaas, Zirad, Chondi belt has become a foodie’s utopia. Starting with Kiki’s, Mandwa’s famous takeaway joint is now a full-fledged restaurant, nestled amongst the green of Ccaza Ccomodore, a luxury Boutique villa near Mandwa, with cozy al-fresco restaurant dining, seaside, sunshine, and a scrumptious food of pancakes, belly of the beast, classic eggs benedict, eggs kejriwal, bangers and mash, and mushroom potato rosti and much more.
Down the road from there on the main Alibaug-Awas road is Buono Pizzeria. The finest pizzas in Alibaug, with a whole bunch of pastas, calzone and salads. But if you’re going local then, nothing beats these two indomitable veterans. Kasturi Restaurant, run by the women’s cooperative Kasturi Mahila Udyog and renowned for their fresh seafood and Malwani fare. Pomfret, surmai, prawn or rawas, tisrya prepared sukka or in curries with rice, bhakri and vade. Also, typical Maharashtrian bhaji, usaal and amti. And finally, the experience that goes way beyond just food. Paisley Experience in Dhokawade is unique. As the sun sets, their rustic farmside dining space turns into a candle-lit setting.
You sit under the stars for a local, yet unique dining experience with a menu curated form traditional and heritage recipes of Pachkalshi and Agri food. Starting with jawla koshimbir (dried shrimp salad), pachkalshi fried chicken (fried chicken tossed in tamarind chutney), traditional alu vadi with shrimp, (kolambi alu vadi) to the fresh catch of the day, done the way you like it. Of course, there is a whole menu of traditional meat and fish and vegetables, that you must experience for yourself.
Well that’s how the first month of my new year began, and I hope it’s how the rest of my year will play out as well.
Kunal Vijayakar is a food writer based in Mumbai. He tweets @kunalvijayakar and can be followed on Instagram @kunalvijayakar. His YouTube channel is called Khaane Mein Kya Hai. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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