Exquisite tastes of Khao Yai
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Exquisite tastes of Khao Yai

A culinary journey across four venues at InterContinental Khao Yai


The monsoons are the perfect season to get away to lusher, greener climates. And if you don’t want to go far, Khao Yai makes a good destination for a couple of days.

The InterContinental Khao Yai makes an even better destination to stay, not only because of the quaintness of the resort but also because of its culinary offerings. If you’re going to be stuck indoors listening to the pitter-patter of rain, the food needs to be good!

Executive chef Nirut "Rut" Pochsalee oversees the resort’s dining outlets, three of which are in restored heritage railway carriages. Let us being the culinary journey (pun intended) in the all-day dining restaurant, Somying’s Kitchen, which serves Thai cuisine. The menu has dishes that showcase the finest locally-sourced ingredients from the area, highlighting the flavours of the region. A true taste of Khao Yai, so to speak. 

Begin with the healthy stuff, because you know you’re only going to move on into more heartier fare. Somying’s garden salad is a mix of lentils, red beans, chickpeas, cucumbers, tomato and iceberg lettuce tossed in a lemon, yoghurt and peppermint dressing. “The salad comes from local farmers with whom we collaborate with. We also have a herb garden on the property, where we grow produce that we use daily. Herbs like Thai basil, chillies, pandan, Thai betel leaves and a few flowers,” explains chef Rut, who has more than two decades of work experience in kitchens around the world.  

I always find it rewarding to order the restaurant’s signature dish, which in this case is Somying’s Saab. A meal fit for a king, as they say, it’s an entire Grilled chicken, Spicy papaya salad Korat-style and Larb moo served with Sticky rice. “We wanted to present something that was unique to the area. Korat is the gateway to Isan, which is the northeastern part of Thailand, and since we are in Nakhon Ratchasima [where Korat lies], it made sense to make it our signature,” says the chef.

What makes the som tam or the green papaya salad unique from others is that the Korat-stye one has the addition of pickled field crab and fermented Thai anchovy juice. Due to these inclusions, the salad is spicy, sweet and salty. What’s not to love?! 

“The chicken also comes from a farm in Khorat and it is farmed in a village and it is not as tender as other chickens, which gives it character. The chicken is marinated with Thai herbs before being grilled. The anchovy is also from the area and so is the field crab,” adds the chef. 

Another must order is the Khao pad rod fai or Train fried rice. We are in a train-themed resort, after all. The Thai train fried rice comes with kale and pork belly. “The recipe is a traditional one used on all Thai trains,” explains chef Rut. 

It would be a shame not to mention the Gang run juan, which is a sour soup with beef, shrimp paste, chilli, kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass and holy basil. The soup dish was created in the palace with leftovers and is popular in the region, because it is the cattle-rearing belt of Thailand. The palace chef stir-fried the beef with shrimp paste and then turned it into a sour soup. It was named gaeng run juan, which loosely translates as “a soup you can’t stop thinking about”, and I find myself still thinking about it. Job well done!

One of my favourite things to do on rainy afternoons is sip tea and read a book, or sit on my balcony looking out at the rain. When in the InterContinental Khao Yai, the same is achievable in a different setting. The Tea Carriage is in an actual train carriage, where all the seats face windows that face the huge man-made Swan Lake. A traditional afternoon tea service includes an array of sweet and savoury recipes. To take it further up a notch, the experience can also be had with Champagne or rosé pairings. 

In case this is your first encounter with afternoon tea, there are posters adorning the walls on the correct etiquette. I love afternoon tea that is equally balanced between sweet and savoury options and at the InterContinental Khao Yai, chef Rut doesn’t fail to please. I begin with the savoury items first of which there is a Choux pastry filled with Parmesan cream, Pepperoni bruschetta, Cucumber and tuna sandwiches with Greek yoghurt, Tom yum kung vol-au-vent, larb gai quiche, boeuf Bourguignon bite, Thai beef tartare crostini, Thai crab yoghurt salad in a brioche and Pork belly with pulled mushroom in a brioche. 

I love a good savoury dish in fluffy, flaky pastry and again chef Rut has kept me more than satisfied with the flavour combinations. His sweet creations did not disappoint either with the choices being Mango stick rice in a pastry cup, Victoria orange chiffon cake, Choux cream coconut, Banana cake with cream cheese, Madeleines with pistachio, Matcha tea brownies, Scones served with housemade jam and clotted cream, and the absolutely divine French opera cake.  

With so much food, it is not impossible to spend the afternoon wiling away while watching Swan Lake come to life before your eyes. And by that I mean the beautiful white and black swans gliding effortless across the lake as though they know they are being watched. Bliss!

Evenings are best spend indoors, especially when the surrounding jungle comes alive with sounds (and mosquitoes). Papillion Bar, probably Khao Yai’s most stylish bar, is in a stunning carriage and took me right back to my trip on the Eastern Oriental Express. Yes, it is that luxurious. Celebrate the golden age of first-class travel in this jazzy nightclub lounge, specially designed from an upcycled rail carriage, the bar has a high-end beverage menu, which includes Champagnes, wines and whiskies. It also has classic French cocktails, and serves small bites and canapés. Papillion is the place for an apéritif and a digestif. 

Using a connecting carriage, one can move on to dinner at the French-themed Poirot. Named after the famous fictional detective Hercule Poirot from Agatha Christie’s novels, the fine dining restaurant also offers quarterly murder mystery dinners. Though Poirot was Belgian, the refined selection of dishes offer classic French fare, cooked with flare. On cool evenings, the outdoor terrace facing the lake makes a good spot for a meal, though mosquito repellant intact. 

Choose to begin your meal with half a dozen Gillardeau oysters served with the classic French mignonette. The Crab royale is delicious fresh shredded crab served with guacamole and ripe mango. Though the Ceviche de Vivaneau Rouge or red snapper ceviche caught my eye. Thinly-sliced red snapper is served with pomegranate, red onions, avocado with a lime dressing on the side. 

It is with the mains where chef Rut shines. The Beef Burgundy uses Australian Wagyu beef tenderloin 8/9 and is served with pearl onions, potato puree, smoked streaky bacon and a red wine jus. The beef is cooked to perfection, a rare occurrence in Thailand where most cooks do not get the medium rare sear on the meat. The same could be said for the Steak frites, which uses Stanbroke Wagyu striploin, served with French fries and beef jus. The Loup de mer or the seabass fillet came with baby kale, citrus coconut crust, an espuma of crustaceans jus and dill essence. 

Desserts are a feast and the best way to finish off a meal at Poirot. Fondant au chocolat uses Guanacja chocolate for the lava cake, which is served with vanilla ice cream. But the star of the show would have to be the Crème brûlée à l’orange. “We bake the crème brûlée in an empty orange to ensure that the brûlée has the aroma and flavour of the orange. It is served with a chocolate madeleine for texture and varied taste,” explains chef Rut. 

To make the best of the season, The Intercontinental Khao Yai resort is offering a “Stay & Dine” package, which includes accommodation with breakfast and a seven-course Thai set dinner for their "Chef’s Table — A Thai Journey” event on July 20. Chef Rut will be cooking up a storm at Somying’s Kitchen, where dinner begins with a wine tasting. Booking has opened for stay dates on July 20-21. Visit the resort’s website.

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