Supattra Boonsrang, Chef de Cuisine of the Thai Soul restaurant at the Grand Hyatt Bolgatty in Kochi, is at home in her herb garden that she set up a year-and-a-half ago.
It provides the lemongrass, basil, ginger, galangal, eggplant, papaya, and butter peas needed for her dishes.
Supattra says, “The climate in Kochi is similar to Thailand—hot summers, rains, not-very-cold winters and high humidity. I used to have such a garden back in my home country.”
The pesticide-free garden uses an unusual type of manure. “We put chicken and fish bones in the oven and roast it. Then, we put it in the grinder and make a powder. It is good for the soil,” she says.
She is making a crab meat salad. The meat is put in a charcoal oven and has been smoked.
Supattra puts the meat, now cut into small pieces, into a bowl, and adds a mix of lemongrass, laksa leaves (Vietnamese mint), coriander, shallots, chillies and fish sauce and thinly-diced mango.
Next it a Tom Yum Koong, a spicy prawn soup with kaffir lime, lemongrass and galangal (forest ginger), and a green curry called Kaeng Khiao Wan Gai, which has coconut, eggplant, and green chillies. This is to be eaten along with the long-grained Jasmine rice, imported from Thailand.
Dessert is the cool Tab Tim Kromb—water chestnuts, dipped in coconut milk and crushed ice. To give it a touch of Kerala, she placed a slice of jackfruit on top. "Most people these days chop vegetables, meat and fish by machine, I do it by hand. I still use the mortar and pestle. I feel that is the only way to give the food a human touch,” she says.
Her culinary journey began in Yasoton town in northern Thailand. Her father Payad used to cook in a small restaurant as a chef. Supattra started her career cutting vegetables for him.
She feels diners are no longer enjoying the slow rhythm of a multi-course meal.
She says, “People want food that is made fast without much garnish. They also want all the courses to be served at one go. Thai food is steamed, so it is healthy and light on the stomach. My own mother, at 88, is so fit she walks faster than me.”As for her aim today, Supattra says, “I want to make Thai food popular among Malayalis.”