Tag Archives: Thai

Spicy prawn & coconut cream soup

Spicy prawn & coconut cream soup

There has been no time for cooking these last two months. Dinner has consisted mostly of Grand Chicken Ranch burgers from McDonald’s (the three lettuce leaves, slice of tomato and single onion ring constituting my 5-a-day as far as I am concerned) or toast. So it’s been rather nice to have someone to cook for and have a bit of time to get into the kitchen again. Even if that kitchen is a desk and toaster oven in a tiny Chinese hotel room, and finding ingredients for a specific recipe could mean a three hour round trip to the Avo Lady. If you’re in Shanghai, you can find lemon grass here (and only here, as far as I have been able to tell).

This is one of my all-time favourite recipes. The extremely obliging people at  Woodall Country House & Spa in the Sundays River Valley were kind enough to pass the recipe along after my book club spent a pampered weekend there a few years ago, reading nothing but wine labels and enjoying their exceptional cuisine and warm hospitality. It is dead easy and very, very good. The butternut blends to a velvety, smooth soup without the need for straining and the Thai flavours turn what would ordinarily be standard weekday fare into something a little special.

Thai butternut soup

Serves 4 Read the rest of this entry

Royal Siam Thai

Royal Siam Thai

Royal Siam TaiThere is always one major concern that I think most of us food loving people have when we try a new restaurant in our area.The worry is this: What if they’re good, but they don’t make it? And after a long and lazy lunch at Royal Siam Thai at Milkwood Village in Wilderness, I was very worried indeed. As I have mentioned before, being a restauranteur in the Garden Route takes balls. We are a fickle, lazy, unadventurous bunch and I can just imagine the legion of clientele who would not return because they can’t pronounce half the dishes on the menu. (“Where’s the crumbed calamari starter and steak with mushroom sauce?”.) But if you’re not the type of person who’ll worry about sounding like you’re ordering an overweight exotic prostitute when all you want is Phad Thai, then you will absolutely love this place! The food is utterly delicious. That perfect Thai combination of sour, salty and sweet is zhushed up with the heat intensity of your choice if you like it hot. The menu is extensive with a huge array of starters and I could happily spend an afternoon there just working my way through prawn tempura, springrolls stuffed to bursting with generous portions of duck and fresh veg, satay and crispy, juicy wontons. I forwent the Tom Yum soup as it never particularly appealed to me the few times I’ve had it in other places before, but if you really want a taste of hot and sour the way the Thai’s do it, then this is the dish to have. Predictably, what I really wanted to try was their Phad Thai – you don’t judge a seafood restaurant on the quality of their salad buffet. I became addicted to this most quintessential of noodle dishes in Thailand and attempted it myself one evening for friends with fairly disastrous consequences. If you don’t get the flavour balance just right, then it’s all wrong. Like going off sushi after combining it with too many blue drinks at a roll-your-own dinner party one night, I had managed to completely put myself off something I had previously loved. But the only way Royal Siam’s Phad Thai could’ve tasted any more authentic is if I’d had a lady boy passing me serviettes while (s)he complained about how the heat was making h(er)is mascara run. The balance between sweet, sour and salty combined with the plump prawns and more-ish peanuts was simply sublime. The Thai Red Curry Adam had was beautifully fragrant and was a really silly thing for him to order considering how easy it was for me to just dunk my spoon in there for a taste whenever he looked away. Utterly scrumptious. I was rather devastated when, at the end of the meal, I realised I had eaten so much that there was no place for deep fried ice cream. In fact, I was rather miffed that I didn’t have four stomachs like a cow so I could try more of the dishes on the menu! Massaman curry (traditional curry with coconut milk and peanuts), Phlaa Goong (Thai salad with prawns, lemongrass and mint), Happy Duck and Angry Duck (who wouldn’t want to order these just to see the personality differences?), Garlic Pepper Prawns and How Mok Talay (a steamed seafood curry terrine with sweet basil) are just a few of the many dishes on the menu.

Royal Siam Thai wontonsUnlike the unflattering fluorescent lights and plastic chairs that look like they’re made for Lego man proportions that usually accompany any authentic Thai meal, Royal Siam is an opulent blend of warm reds, sensuous blacks and soft lighting. You also don’t have to worry if you can’t use chopsticks – in true Thai fashion, food is eaten with a fork and a spoon. The wine list is small, but reasonably priced (as are all the items on the menu) and there are a few Thai beers like Tiger and Singha. This is definitely the place to take as many of your friends as possible, order one of everything off the menu and eat and share with abandon.

Royal Siam Thai

Milkwood Village

Beacon Street


+27 44 877 8815

Satay & Sosaties

Satay & Sosaties

It was the beurre blanc sauce that did it in the end. Sitting in The Cactus Club Cafe in Vancouver, swirling the last morsel of butternut squash ravioli and perfectly grilled prawn through the delicate, buttery emulsion I was suddenly miffed. Why do we not get food like this at home? I mean really, how hard can it be?? Butter? Check. Prawns? Check. Squash? Check. We’re not talking eye of newt or toe of dragon here! You can buy everything at your nearest supermarket for crying in a bucket! Okay, it wasn’t cheap. But then nothing is cheap when you’re buying with a few bruised and battered rands. But on my chicken index (closely related to the Big Mac index and, inexplicably, my scale of choice for comparing prices on this particular trip) this plate of gastronomic grub had only cost 1.2 chickens before tax and a tip. And we found the same thing everywhere. Both the food and service was exceptional. It didn’t really matter whether we were doing fine dining at C Restaurant or just having fish and chips at the first place we found in Qualicum Beach. So why is it so hard to get the same thing here? It’s not because we don’t have the talent in South Africa. You need only venture beyond the borders of Mossel Bay and Sedgefield to get generally good food and service. And a trip to any of our local markets will quickly dismiss any suggestion that it could be a lack of excellent, fresh produce. It’s the mentality of this town when it comes to all things foodie and the mentality of South Africans in general when it comes to demanding to get what you paid for. If The Cactus Club had to open a location in George they’d be gone within a year. And a Wimpy would probably spring up in its place.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Wimpy. A Wimpy coffee and a breakfast is the highlight of any rainbow blooded South African’s every road trip. But there is a time and a place. And Saturday morning – so close to the Wild Oats Farmers’ Market in Sedgefield that you could brain a stall holder with a well aimed Mega coffee – is not the place. And yet, there they sit in their droves: Garden Routers who would rather eat yet another Wimpy breakfast than have anything as outlandish as a crispy potato rösti topped with salmon, a poached egg and real Hollandaise sauce from the market. For the same price. And THAT is why we don’t get food like we did in Canada, in George. Because we don’t ask for it. We are happy to pay for mediocre food and atrocious service, clandestinely murmuring our dissatisfaction to our fellow diners, but never daring to raise our objections with the owners of the establishment.

We need to be more discerning. More demanding. If you’re going to pay a ten percent tip to your waitron anyway, shouldn’t they at least clear your plates in a timely fashion and fill your wine glass before it is empty? If you’re going to fork out money for a plate of calamari, shouldn’t it at least be a good plate of calamari? There is a restaurant in town (that shall remain nameless) that was always a favourite of ours for really, really good seafood. But they’ve been, well, total crap of late. We tried three times and the outcome was the same. And while we will never go back, it is still jam packed when you drive past there, because the clientele just doesn’t seem to care. So how will they ever get better? They’ll just keep turning out the same plates of mediocre food to an undemanding audience, because they CAN.

I understand that you know what a Wimpy breakfast tastes like, and that that is why you will keep going back there. I get it. But there are 5 Wimpy’s in George alone. Five! Yet restaurants like Margot’s, Tarragon’s and Sunsutra didn’t make it. No one wants to try a lamb burger with chermoula when they know exactly what a Spur burger tastes like. I have seen local menu’s change from iced berries with hot white chocolate to ice cream with hot chocolate sauce (oh, the *yawn* excitement) and  the concomitant extinction of that little spark in the restaurateurs eyes. And when you look again, they’re gone. So next time you’re in the area, why not stop at the Wild Oats market and have a fresh roll topped with fluffy, creamy scrambled eggs and perfectly crisp bacon instead of your usual? Just once. Support the brilliant food stalls at the Outeniqua Farmers’ Market  on a Saturday. Live totally on the edge and have a croquette or Thai chicken curry for lunch. Have dinner at The Old Townhouse for a change and try one of their biltong, feta and peppadew springrolls or one of Dario’s weekly specials using the freshest seasonal ingredients at La Locanda. Surely fresh asparagus with parmesan cream sounds more appealing than yet another salad bar? It’s not that scary! Try it. You’ll probably like it.

Anyhoo. On to the cooking.

We might not be discerning when it comes to restaurants, but if there’s one thing we know here, it’s braaiing. Real braaiing. On wood and everything. We were only gone for four weeks, but we suffered some major smoke withdrawal! So in the spirit of adventure, why not try these chicken satays the next time you light the fire. If you’re a true Georgian, the fish sauce will scare you. But give it a bash anyway! If you don’t like it, you can just have sosaties again tomorrow. And you know Wimpy will always be there with an old faithful standby. Read the rest of this entry