Samui Wining & Dining
As Unique as Signature

It's hard to isolate only one, as Twisted Thai's signature dish.


21A look of odd amusement. That's what I get when asking Executive Chef, Pornpirom Khunwong (Tom), and F&B Manager, Jojo Moises, of Twisted Thai at The Imperial Samui Beach Resort, which they consider to be the restaurant's signature dish. “But all of our dishes are signature – you'll never find them anywhere else. They're unique to Twisted Thai,” they exclaim, somewhat in unison.

    “But, I need to write about your signature dish,” I protest, “So give me something!” The two men promptly put their heads together in earnest discussion, and then come up smiling with an idea.

  Basically, Chef Tom decides that to make the most of the menu, ordering an assorted appetiser platter to share from the degustation menu is the way to go. Classic Thai favourites are presented in a topsy-turvy, punch-all-the-senses, kind of way, and this platter allows the opportunity to sample five of Twisted Thai's signature dishes.

      “Just wait,” Chef Tom says, as he heads to the kitchen to conjure up an example. I stay at the table to chat to Jojo, admiring the restaurant's view over the bay, and the beautiful swimming pool. A while later, he returns to the table with two dishes – a classic laab moo, and his twisted version of laab tuna, the idea being that it would be easier to explain his version if we have the regular one to compare it to. And so we analyse the dishes as a scientist would an experiment.

       First we look at the classic laab, in this case, moo (pork). The meat is finely chopped and served cold, as a salad. Added to the fried minced meat, are fresh chillies, mint, coriander leaves, Thai basil, lime juice, chopped red shallots and fish sauce. It's served with sliced cucumber, cabbage and green beans, to subdue the heat.

      Now for the Twisted Thai version. The appetiser arrives served on a glass saucer, topped with a glass teacup, as if in a little display case. Nestled in a teaspoon on the saucer is an amber-coloured concoction. My look of puzzlement prompts Chef Tom's explanation. “All the taste is in the spoon,” he says. “And all the smell is under there,” he proclaims, grinning, and pointing to the glass teacup.

      Instead of fresh shallots, Chef Tom has made a marmalade of shallots, fish sauce, chilli powder, lime juice and white sugar. This mixture in the spoon has all the tastes – sweet, sour, salty and spicy. Garnishing the marmalade are little fish sauce pearls that resemble caviar. He makes these by cooking fish sauce and gelatine, and then dropping the mixture into cold oil, using a syringe.

      On lifting the cup from the saucer, a fresh tuna and mint aroma escapes. Chef Tom explains how he doesn't chop the tuna as with traditional laab, but sears small squares of the fish, making sure it remains pink inside. It's then coated in a dusting of kaffir lime leaf powder and rice powder, and placed on top of finely shredded cabbage. The green beans are in the form of an emulsion, soft and creamy, which still does the job of reducing the heat from the chilli. The tuna squares are topped with bright red chilli slices and mint leaves, making them appear as little gift boxes in a bird's nest. The idea is to taste the shallot marmalade and fish sauce pearls along with the tuna, in the way that traditional laab is all mixed together.

      Now this ingenious little dish is one of five on the appetiser platter, each with its own twist. So you can imagine what an adventure it must be for the taste buds. Here's what else you'll find on the platter.

      The flavours of the Tom Yum Parmesan resemble a normal tom yum (spicy hot-and-sour prawn soup). However, they don't put the prawns inside, but mix them with whipping cream and Parmesan cheese, and serve it with a Parmesan crisp. Who would have thought cheese goes with tom yum, but it does.

      Rather than the chunky herbs and spices that usually flavour Tom Kha Gai, or chicken in coconut milk soup, the flavours are infused into the broth, which is then put into a cream gun, and served resembling whipped cream, accompanied by crispy chicken skin.

      Yam Talay, or seafood salad, is made into a terrine of prawn and sea bass, topped with a seafood dressing and fruit jelly, and garnished with crispy salmon skin.

      Kai Hin Nin, the Twisted Thai version, at first glance, resembles a regular salted egg. However, the egg is slow-cooked, coated with minced pork and deep fried. It is served cut in half, with the hard yolk removed and replaced with a soft filling.

      Fancy an adventure of the gastronomic kind? Head down to Twisted Thai at The Imperial Samui in Chaweng Noi. It's guaranteed to get tongues wagging, in more ways than one.


Rosanne Turnern


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