HI Weekly - - KNOW YOUR WEEK - STORY SHRUTHI NAIR PHOTOGRAPHY SHABIN E. — shruthi@time­so­fo­man.com

Ilove trav­el­ling to other coun­tries, ex­plor­ing their cul­ture and tra­di­tions, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing their life­style, and savour­ing their tra­di­tional dishes. Last year on vis­it­ing Thai­land, I did get to do most of these, and along with the many bril­liant mem­o­ries that I brought back with me, was an un­canny in­cli­na­tion to­wards Thai food, specif­i­cally their spices.

I haven’t been to too many Thai restau­rants in Oman be­cause of the fear that my taste­buds might for­get the orig­i­nal taste of the amaz­ing Thai food but when I heard about Charm Thai, I had this gut feel­ing that I would get a chance to taste some au­then­tic Thai cui­sine. So I de­cided to pay a visit to this restau­rant si­t­u­ated in the new Crowne Plaza over­look­ing the gor­geous nat­u­ral wadi, the wide moun­tains, and amidst the si­lence and peace of noth­ing­ness.

I walked into Crowne Plaza down the spi­ralling stair­case to the ar­rive at the huge, glis­ten­ing door with 6730 Thai Bahts (lo­cal cur­rency) of Charm Thai stand­ing tall and pro­tec­tive of what it holds within. A pe­tite, young woman emerged out of the door and with joined palms and smile on her face greeted me with the tra­di­tional

Sawadikaa and ush­ered me into this mag­i­cal land of imag­i­na­tion, cre­ativ­ity, art, and a pure culi­nary haven. I walked through ad­mir­ing the unique fur­ni­tures in bold pur­ples and browns, the an­cient paint­ings hang­ing from the walls, the in­tri­cately de­signed ceil­ing, po­etry about food run­ning along the pil­lars and the pho­to­graphs of the kings and queens of age-old Thai­land. Wide-eyed, too many ques­tions popped in my mind, which is when an­other at­ten­dant sprang up in front of me took me through the very in­ter­est­ing tale of this place.

Mostly fic­ti­tious, the story of Charm Thai re­volves around Princess Suphankalaya, who was dis­guised as a royal war­rior. Dur­ing the 16th cen­tury Siam - Burmese war, the King’s army was cor­ralled into a val­ley. A war­rior dressed in golden ar­mour rid­ing an ele­phant charged down the Burmese from the rear. Dur­ing the bat­tle the war­rior’s hel­met fell off to re­veal her true iden­tity and the leg­end of The Golden Princess was born. The king was ashamed of be­ing saved by his own daugh­ter and ban­ished her. She set sail along the Silk Route and fi­nally dis­cov­ered Oman where she estab­lished her Tav­ern. All the arte­facts are said to be col­lected dur­ing the Princess’ ex­pe­di­tion around the world.

Hav­ing heard this fas­ci­nat­ing tale, my ex­cite­ment about din­ing here peaked. All the chefs and at­ten­dants were Thai na­tion­als who brought the au­then­tic­ity and tra­di­tion of the land along with them. Chef Shakriya, who was the star of the night, pre­pared a few sig­na­ture dishes and pre­sented them be­fore us. I chose to sit out­side as the weather was pleas­ant, the light­ing was per­fect, and the Thai mu­sic felt like med­i­ta­tion. The seats out­side were wooden and in the shape of the boat to com­pli­ment the tale of the restau­rant and the lights were just right to set the mood.

First came the pa­paya salad and the iconic Tom Yum soup cooked with shrimps. The taste was so fresh and dis­tinct that for once I felt that the soup didn’t just do the job of ready­ing my taste­buds for the sup­per but as the be­gin­ning to the sup­per it­self. Then came the grilled chicken sa­tay. Served with skew­ers, along­side tamarind sauce and Thai spe­cial acha, which is a mix of cu­cum­ber, vine­gar and sugar is a de­light to dine on. The flavours are set­tled in well and it is a pleas­ant nib­ble. The chicken is juicy and the sides add a strong flavour to it.

Then came the two mains — Thai prawns curry and Duck with veg­eta­bles and tamarind sauce.As the prawns curry came to the ta­ble, I shut my eyes and took a deep breath to catch the mouth-wa­ter­ing whiff, which trans­ported me to Thai­land for a few sec­onds. This is the smell that I caught in very street and restau­rant I walked through in Thai­land and I fi­nally found it here. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this pink prawns curry. I took some jas­mine rice and sub­merged it in loads of prawns curry and de­voured on it like theres no to­mor­row. Un­like the pop­u­lar green curry, this one is sweet and slightly tangy and is sta­ple in South­ern Thai­land, which is where the chef hails from. I then moved on to the duck and couldn’t stop won­der­ing why I hadn’t tried duck ever be­fore. The com­bi­na­tion on my plate was just per­fect. The well cooked duck served with this tamarind sauce and crisped leafy veg­eta­bles that were all meant to be savoured to­gether. I loved how per­fectly the duck was cooked and how well all these dif­fer­ent tastes of com­po­si­tions com­pli­mented each other.

Fi­nally, I moved on to my favourite dish ever. Mango with sticky rice. All Thai fruits are sweeter than it is in other coun­tries. Since I’m born with a sweet tooth not just for choco­lates or desserts but for ev­ery­thing, Thai fruits es­pe­cially mango and co­conut are my favourite from the time I tasted it. So when I was served mango with white sticky rice that was put to­gether like risotto I was on cloud nine. The fruit was as sweet as it should be, the rise wasn’t too heavy, and I just kept go­ing on and on at it, un­til my stom­ach told me that it can take no more. It was time for me to say Khaponkhaa, just to come back again very soon.

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