Benjarong, Chennais popular Thai cuisine restaurant, is currently hosting their Loi Krathong Food Festival. Rob Peck takes you through the festival thats lighting up diners palates with tasty delicacies straight from Thailand.
Loi Krathong is an annual Thai festival in which small, lotus shaped baskets containing candles are floated out over the water. These little rafts are said to carry away bad luck and evil spirits, replacing them with prosperity and love.
In recent times, it has become something of a celebration for couples. Well, I certainly didnt leave Benjarong more prosperous than when I entered but I did fall in love...with the food of course. The festival menu is quite distinct from the regular offerings with the goal of offering some new and different to frequent guests.
For Loi Krathong, Benjarong serves up a fixed menu (with a choice of vegetarian or non-vegetarian) complete with several starters, soup, salad, main courses, and desserts. The standout starter would have to be the crispy friend mushrooms and tofu. Delivered to the table tossed with roasted chili paste and Thai sweet basil this dish manages to be both flavorful and healthy; leaving you wanting for more no matter the portion size. The tofu was fried perfectly without any semblance of an oily aftertaste. It was simply fantastic and one of those rare dishes where you can close your eyes and imagine the taste days after eating it. For the main course, I opted for the deep fried Fish wrapped in Pandan leaves and the chicken curry. There was something unique about the fish. It could have been the Pandan leaves, which give a distinct flavor from the usual banana leaves, or some secret Thai spices found in the batter. It was delicious. Unwrapping each piece from its leafy cocoon was like opening a birthday gift delivered straight to my stomach.
My one issue with the upscale dining is that as great as the food is, I often leave unfulfilled because of portion size. The chicken curry addressed that head on and then some, leaving me waddling towards the car longing for an afternoon nap along the way. The curry is based on the traditional Thai red curry but is in fact yellow. Figure that one out. As puzzling as that was, it really was delicious. Full of Thai spices, the coconut milk balanced them out, giving the succulent chicken a smooth and mild taste. Ladled over perfectly steamed rice, this dish satisfied my large gut the most.
For dessert, I went with the sweet Thai sticky rice serviced with coconut custard. Honestly, either part of this could be a dessert in and of itself, but together they form a match made in heaven. The tastes and textures bounce off each other perfectly, leaving diners with a sweetened palate after a fantastic meal.
Must Try: Fish wrapped in Pandan leaves
Meal for two: Rs. 2000 approximately
Photographs: Sandhya Ramachandran
Rob Peck is an American living in Chennai. Having relocated from Miami, he sometimes misses the late nights of the Magic City, but loves the food, culture, and people of Chennai. When not working, he can most likely be found scouring T. Nagar for the perfect meal, at a pub, or cooped up playing video games.