No place like HAOMA

THE ECOL­OGY-MINDED BANGKOK RESTAU­RANT GROWS ITS OWN VEG­GIES AND FISH – IN FACT THEY HELP GROW EACH OTHER

The Nation - - FRONT PAGE - KHETSIRIN PHOLDHAMPALIT

ON A serene patch off Sukhumvit 31 in Bangkok, the restau­rant Haoma – a two-storey house with a back­yard gar­den lush with ed­i­ble greens – is named for a di­vine plant from Per­sian mythol­ogy.

This is in­deed a green des­ti­na­tion, where the zero-waste prin­ci­ple is pur­sued and all the in­gre­di­ents have been raised free of pes­ti­cides and an­tibi­otics. The own­ers have the big beau­ti­ful back­yard as well as a four-rai farm in Chi­ang Mai.

Fruit and veg­eta­bles are served about 48 hours af­ter har­vest in the be­lief that that’s prime­time for their com­po­nent nu­tri­ents. They come from small, lo­cal pro­duc­ers whose meth­ods are cer­ti­fied as en­vi­ron­men­tally and eth­i­cally re­spon­si­ble.

A visit to Haoma typ­i­cally be­gins with a short tour of the gar­den with the pro­pri­etor and ex­ec­u­tive chef, Deep­anker “DK” Khosla from In­dia, who proudly shows off his in­te­grated “aquapon­ics” sys­tem where fish and plants grow to­gether.

Wasabi mizuna, In­dian bor­age and French roselle are among the herbs un­der cul­ti­va­tion in beds, while six large vats, each con­tain­ing 500 litres of rain­wa­ter, hold pla nil – Nile ti­lapia fish.

What­ever food waste em­anates from the kitchen ends up in the fish bel­lies and then the fish waste fer­tilises the plants, which in exchange filter the wa­ter in which the fish live.

“It’s a car­bon-neu­tral sys­tem,” Khosla ex­plains. “Each tank can hold about 100 fish and the rain­wa­ter is con­stantly re­cy­cling. I got the idea while camp­ing at Kaeng Krachan Dam in Phetch­aburi, where the reser­voir was full of pla nil ini­tially raised by King Bhu­mi­bol. He en­cour­aged peo­ple to breed this fish be­cause it grows quickly and is rich in pro­tein.”

By the end of next year, says Khosla, who also runs the restau­rant Karma Kismet in New Delhi, Haoma will be zero-waste.

“We’ve al­ready re­duced about 80 per cent of the waste and the rest de­pends on our sup­pli­ers. We’ll stop us­ing sup­pli­ers who use diesel trucks – they have to run on CNG [com­pressed nat­u­ral gas]. And we give our veg­etable sup­pli­ers cot­ton bags to use for de­liv­er­ies so there’s no need for plas­tic. The meat we get in re­cy­clable con­tain­ers.”

The in­door din­ing area is pre­dom­i­nantly wood and chock-full of dec­o­ra­tive plants. There’s also an out­door deck in the back­yard with low ta­bles.

For the cool sea­son, Khosla has un­veiled menus of nine cour­ses (Bt1,990) and 13 cour­ses (Bt2,590) that draw in­spi­ra­tion from the moun­tains of Chi­ang Mai, the Gulf of Thai­land and the lit­tle ur­ban “farm” on Sukhumvit 31.

He char­ac­terises the cui­sine as “pro­gres­sive”, with fre­quent spicy kicks in a nod to both the chef ’s home­land and his adopted land.

“The dishes re­flect my roots and my jour­ney so far in Thai­land,” he says. “I’ve been liv­ing here for five years and I travel reg­u­larly to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent flavours. I want to bring all these el­e­ments to my food.

“The menu pre­sented to the guests is like a map of Thai­land and they can travel to dif­fer­ent prov­inces in dif­fer­ent cour­ses. Sakon Nakhon is pop­u­lar for its pon yang kham beef, for ex­am­ple, Buri Ram for its wagyu and Ayut­thaya for its river prawns.”

Galauti Cor­nets are a spicy, slightly tangy open­ing pop to waken the taste buds. They’re tiny pas­try cones served on a tree branch and they’re filled with wild mush­rooms, 13 In­dian spices, lo­cal hed tob (black mush­room) and citrus gel.

Oys­ter & Corn Tar­tar is a cracker hold­ing slices of oys­ter and abalone from Phuket, cooked with cilantro and yuzu le­mon. It’s topped with a “de­con­struc­tion” of corn soup that ends up look­ing like corn ker­nels.

Khosla says his Melon Ter­rine com­bines what he loves most about green and red Thai cur­ries, mas­saman and tom kha (co­conut soup with galan­gal). It fea­tures three chunks of melon – red, green and yellow – capped with tom kha ice cream. On the side is foam that’s flavoured just like mas­saman, green curry and tom kha.

Ar­riv­ing in a wooden box is Cured Wheel, which Khosla says “rep­re­sents Haoma in one bite”. Here you have 15 dif­fer­ent herbs grown in the back­yard and some of that pla nil too. It’s a rollup with a rice cracker at the cen­tre, en­cir­cled with lay­ers of dashi, the Haoma greens and fish, and raisin jam, all with a gin­ger-and-le­mon dress­ing.

Also pre­sented cold is tikka masala, in which char­broiled chicken meets cot­tage cheese, makhani and pick­led shal­lot. Khosla says he’s had suc­cess tack­ling the “chal­lenge” of pre­sent­ing chilled ver­sions of dishes nor­mally served hot – like green curry, tom kha and tikka masala.

Wagyu Short Ribs tap into the Buri Ram sup­ply for 100-gram serv­ings pre­sented with egg­plant gel, buck­wheat seeds and a foam of fer­mented buck­wheat, plus home-made miso paste and mush­rooms on the side.

The de­li­cious dessert is called Black and White, the “White” be­ing ice cream made with fresh cream and milk and de­hy­drated yoghurt, and the “Black” char­coal ice cream with home-made cookie crum­ble.

Haoma takes a sus­tain­able ap­proach to “pro­gres­sive” cui­sine with its farm-to-ta­ble meals.

Melon Ter­rine

Pla nil, a fish highly rec­om­mended by King Bhu­mi­bol, is cul­ti­vated in con­stantly re­cy­cling rain­wa­ter.

In the back­yard gar­den grow a va­ri­ety of ed­i­ble plants and herbs.

Cured Wheel

Chef Deep­anker “DK” Khosla gath­ers herbs for the evening serv­ing.

Galauti Cor­nets

Wagyu Short Ribs

Tikka Masala

Black and White

Oys­ter & Corn Tar­tar

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