Highland delights for sassenachs (and Thais) to savour

InterContinental Bangkok and Diageo Moet Hennessy Thailand recently organised "A Taste of Scotland by Johnnie Walker", a gourmet dinner featuring authentic Scottish cuisine prepared by the hotel's Scottish-born executive chef and paired with traditional Scotch whisky.

Jointly celebrated the Scottish dinner at the Fireplace Grill are, from left are Johnnie Walker (Thailand) senior brand ambassador Chennarong Bhumichitr, InterContinental Bangkok executive chef Leslie Stronach, Bangkok Entertainment vice-president of marketing-sales Surin Krittayaphongphun, DKSH Thailand executive department manager Srocha Laysuwan, Diageo Moet Hennessy Thailand vice-president (commercial) Ittidaje Chanpinit, InterContinental Bangkok executive assistant manager Suri Jitjang and InterContinental Bangkok director of food and beverages Stephen Meredith.

The evening, which took place at the hotel's stylish Fireplace Grill, saw executive chef Leslie Stronach deliver the true taste of Scotland through his seven-course menu, drawing from his ancestors' recipes and cooking techniques. The menu was complimented with a full range of Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky.

"It took me quite some time to come up with the menu which has to also be perfectly complimented the famous, traditional Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky _ one must not overshadow the other's taste," said Stronach. "As you can see, we have many food and wine matching dinners these days, but it is not often that you can experience fine food paired with fine whisky."

One interesting choice Stronach introduced to Bangkok diners at the event was haggis, considered the national dish of Scotland. The dish is made mainly with offal and herbs and served with neeps and tatties (Scottish for turnips and potatoes), boiled and mashed separately, and a glass of Scotch whisky, especially as the main course of a supper.

"Haggis is a very traditional Scottish dish," said Stronach. "There even was a poem done by Robbie Burns, the famous Scottish poet and lyricist, on the dish. A Scottish special dinner would not be the same without it and whisky is the perfect partner. It's lovely yummy _ I had to add haggis to my menu."

Born and raised in Scotland, Stronach has worked in the UK, Norway, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, China and Dubai. In 1989, he was named Australian Chef of the Year. This distinction propelled his career with placements in several leading hotel groups in Asia, including the Palace Hotel in Beijing and The Peninsula, Bangkok. As executive chef of Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur in 2001, he was awarded the Chef of the Year award by the Chef's Association of Malaysia.

He then led his team to a culinary victory in the prestigious Meat & Livestock Australia Black Box culinary challenge in Singapore in 2000, and then the world finals in Kyoto, Japan, two years later. After returning to Australia for 18 months, he moved to Dubai to join The Jumeirah Beach Hotel, followed by The Madinat Jumeirah. At present, he is executive chef of the InterContinental Bangkok.

Stronach's dinner menu at the Fireplace Grill started with delicate smoked salmon and Scotch egg with ginger-spiced curry cream. It was nicely paired with a refreshing Johnnie Walker Red Label cocktail.

This starter was followed with three more delicious dishes _ pan-roasted scallop with black pudding ravioli and pea emulsion, served with Johnnie Walker Black Label; demitasse of prawns with cheddar cream lemon dust and vanilla sabayon, paired with Johnnie Walker Green Label enhanced with smoked whisky poured from a teapot; and the traditional haggis with neeps and tatties, superbly matched with Johnnie Walker Gold Label.

Before the main course, a light whisky Red Bull smoothie was served, instead of sorbet, to cleanse the palate. Accompanying this refreshing smoothie was a shot of Johnnie Walker Platinum Label served with the unique, freezing cold "platinum rocks".

The main course _ pan-roasted lamb loin with stovies and rosemary whisky sauce _ went perfectly with the delicate Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

The dinner ended in style when a glass of the majestic Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George was served with the luscious dessert _ liquid chocolate pudding, honeycomb ice cream and honey glace. Coffee followed, along with classic Scottish toffee and shortbread biscuits.

"Fine food, fine whisky dinners are very trendy these days," said Chennarong Bhumichitr, the senior brand ambassador of Johnnie Walker (Thailand). We have worked with many top chefs in both leading hotels and stand-alone restaurants on fine whisky dinners. They are all warmly welcomed by connoisseurs."

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Writer: Pamela Tan
Position: Writer