Samui Wining & Dining
Lobster Rocks!

The mighty, and delicious, lobster will always be the King of Crustaceans.

2-3Seafood plays a central role in the cuisine of any island. And Samui is no different. Most restaurants have dozens of dishes containing all manner of fish and crustaceans. And king amongst them is surely the lobster.

     They're considered a delicacy and have long been a symbol of gourmet indulgence for the wealthy, from the great Lobster Palaces of the Gilded Age to the dining rooms of the Hindenburg and the Titanic. But in the early days of English settlement in the New World, at places like Plymouth, Massachusetts, lobsters were so plentiful they were considered food for the poor and for house servants. Household staff would often specify in their employment agreements that they would not eat lobster more than twice per week. And it was not until the twentieth century that lobster was viewed as more than a low-priced staple food.

     However, times change and as talented chefs began to make their mark in the world, new and exciting recipes were being developed. And probably the most well known is Lobster Thermidor. It was created in 1894 by Marie's, a Paris restaurant near the theatre Comédie Française, to honour the opening of the play 'Thermidor' by Victorien Sardou. The play took its name from a summer month in the French Republican Calendar, during which the Thermidorian Reaction occurred, overthrowing Robespierre and ending the Reign of Terror. Lobster Thermidor is related to Lobster Newberg which was created some 20 years earlier in the United States, but Thermidor has proved to be far more popular over the years.

     Not that there aren't other recipes for lobster. In fact, many of the top chefs on the island have created their own recipes and styles, both for locally caught and imported lobsters. Don Lawson is the Executive Chef at Full Moon restaurant at Anantara Resort in Bophut and he always buys Phuket lobster. "Most guests have heard about Phuket lobster. We have beach barbecues several times a week and always sell a great deal of whole lobsters, usually for two people to share. On the Full Moon restaurant menu we have Oceanic grill of whole Phuket lobster tail over wilted spinach and gnocchi, glazed with a macadamia sabayon. And also a Ragout of fresh lobster medallions infused with saffron-dill weed risotto, shaved summer black truffles and topped with fennel Mascarpone. Plus every Saturday night we run a special promotion of steak and lobster which is cooked tableside by one of our chefs, and at just 900 baht it's extremely popular."

 

In fact, many of the top chefs on

the island have created their own

recipes and styles, both for locally

caught and imported lobsters.

 

      Near Lamai is The Dining Room at Rocky's Boutique Resort. And Azizskandar Awang leads the kitchen brigade. He also buys in Phuket lobster, as well as some from the Gulf of Thailand and from Maine, USA. In this day and age Maine lobsters can be transported alive quite safely and delivered quickly. Lobster Bordelaise with baby vegetables, pearl onions and heirloom carrots is his most popular lobster dish, though he also has several others on the menu including Thermidor. And they have a special live Maine lobster night every Thursday. Tommy Garrett, the Executive Chef at the Impiana Resort Chaweng Noi is also a big fan of Maine lobster. "I think you get more for your money with Maine lobster, and the claws are relatively sweet and contrast nicely with the lobster tail. My favourite lobster dish is a lobster mango salad with a little Thai dressing, it's simple, light and has great flavours."

      Down in Chaweng, Chef Dam at Chom Talay restaurant at Chaweng Regent Beach Resort prepares and serves lobsters in a whole host of ways. "We have King lobster cocktail with lime and cocktail sauce served in a dragon fruit shell. A delicious baked lobster with vermicelli and oyster sauce and Lobster Thermidor which is our most popular lobster dish. And this month I'll have a special 'Summer lobster' recipe on the menu, as well as grilled and barbecued lobster every Monday, Wednesday and Sunday at our beach promotion nights."

      Generally, the most plentiful, and most popular size of Maine lobsters are around one and a half pounds each. And chefs will boil or steam live lobsters for seven minutes for the first pound and three minutes for each additional pound. But even the greatest of chefs might have had a problem with the largest lobster ever recorded. According to the Guinness World Records, the largest lobster was a North Atlantic lobster caught in Nova Scotia, Canada in 1977, and weighed 44.4 pounds or 20.15 kilograms. Even a bathtub wouldn't have made a big enough cooking pot!

       Having a talented chef cook your meals for you is fine when you're on holiday. But what do you do if you want to cook lobster at home? If you order live lobsters from a specialist supplier, they will likely have been out of water for about 24 hours when you receive them. Occasionally, they may appear weak or lifeless. This is a normal occurrence. In most cases, as long as the packaging material is in good condition, and the refrigerant is still cold, your lobsters will be fine. The best way to check is to boil the lobster. As long as the lobster's tail curls when cooked, and the meat in the tail is firm, and in one piece, then the lobster was alive when it was cooked.

      Live lobsters are very perishable, and require a controlled salt water environment to remain alive. They do not generally live much more than a day out of water, so ideally, you should cook your lobsters on the day you receive them. Cooked lobsters will stay fresh for at least three days in the refrigerator. Never place lobsters in tap water to try to keep them alive; lobsters are salt water creatures and fresh water will kill them. The best way to keep lobsters alive at home is to refrigerate them and cover with moist seaweed or a damp cloth, and leave them in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

      And do you know what colour live lobsters are? Usually they are dark green or greenish-brown, but lobsters can be found in a range of colours including blue, white, orange, yellow, black, and sometimes even red. Calico lobsters are multicoloured, and some lobsters even have two distinct colours, separated by a line down their backs. But whatever colour they are when alive, all lobsters turn bright red when cooked. This is because the protein molecules in the shells bend into new shapes when cooked which reflect only the red wavelengths in light.

      Still, you can consider all that when you return home. For now, relax and let Samui's many skilled chefs prepare, cook and serve you with the King of Crustaceans - in all the varied, delicious and delightful ways possible.

 

 

 

Johnny Paterson



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