Samui Wining & Dining
Signature Dish

Food for thought, as well as unique Indian cuisine, at Noori India.

 

13 But one of the best things about our little island is the sheer variety of different cuisines on offer. And that means a great many people get a sudden yearning for a really good Indian meal while they’re here. For those in the know this can only mean one place and one person. The place is Noori India and the person is DD Pande. Yes, just DD. He actually really does have two first names but everyone’s long-since forgotten them; probably even DD himself.

      Mr. Pande is an unusual man. He’s not only warmly outgoing and conversational, but he’s an absolute font of philosophical gems, too. Which, once you discover a little of his background, is hardly surprising. He had an academic upbringing, and prior to coming here was teaching at the School of Hotel Management and Catering Technology at Jaipur University. As well as being a philosopher, he’s a published poet and writer, and initially came to Samui about ten years ago to help his brother, Peter, in his restaurant for a few weeks. DD is still here. (Samui seems to have this effect on people!)

       Usually when I ask someone to present me with their signature dish so that I can highlight it on these pages, they scramble for a menu and instantly point to one of the listed items therein. But not DD. I should have realised it wasn’t going to be so straightforward. “Hmm . . .”

he mused with a familiar and faraway look in his eye. “A signature . . . It’s a stamp: a hallmark. It’s unique. It’s highly personal. It’s not like writing your name – anyone who can hold a pen can do that. But a signature is a badge; a symbol that represents who you are . . . your honour and integrity.” I spent a few moments trying to jostle DD back on track with food and a signature dish from Noori, but it was like trying to sink the Titanic without the use of a handy iceberg.

       “You see . . .” he turned to me and beamed, “We don’t have a signature dish. There isn’t something here that I can hold up and say, ‘this is a dish that’s unique; it’s custom-created by our chef and you won’t find anything like it anywhere else.’ We offer Indian food here. But it is unique to Samui. For a start, it’s the real thing, from the Rajasthan region of northern India, mainly – although of course we also feature the pickles and chutneys, bhajis and biriyanis, from the south. And, more to the point,” DD added, “our chefs here are Indian. They grew up with this cuisine, learning every trick and tip about how best to prepare and make it. And that’s all we offer. We don’t have a Thai menu, or any other sort of food, for that matter.”

      But there is no keeping a good philosopher down! “Where do you draw the line about authenticity,” DD pondered. “Look at Chicken Madras – is it an ‘authentic’ curry? It’s a traditional vegetarian dish. But after the last war, the Indians and Pakistanis who went to Europe took their cuisine with them. And it became adapted to a different way of life. But even stranger than this is chicken tikka masala.

       A ‘tikka’ is a dry dish, and a ‘masala’ is a curry sauce. The plain chicken tikka was just too dry for the gravy-loving English, and so the two became combined together as one ‘authentic’ Indian dish. I think the only real way to judge all of these considerations is to study the sort of people who eat at Noori. Visitors from India make a point of coming here to dine. We are asked to cater for Indian weddings. This is our hallmark – our ‘signature’, if you like. Everything we serve here stands out from the crowd. And all our dishes bear the Noori signature of authenticity, quality and individuality.”

      It took a while (although it’s always a pleasure to be in the company of DD Pande!) but I finally got my answer. All of the dishes at Noori are ‘signature’ offerings. However I couldn’t just leave it at that. I’m a professional on assignment and the Mountie always gets his man. Thus, after a while (and with DD’s arm pushed up behind his back) I managed to single out a couple of outstanding offerings for your consideration. You just have to sample the succulent lamb or chicken rogan josh. Or, even better, how about the fish tikka masala? This is cubes of fish marinated in rich herbs and spices, then grilled in the tandoor and served with the initial sauce on a sizzling hot plate. Wonderful!

      Or – just go for the ‘Set Menu for Two’. If your brain is buzzing with all these exotic names and techniques, then take the easy way out. The set menu is an assortment of eight separate dishes, plus a beer or soft drink each. And it all costs just a bit less than 500 baht. Oh – I have to add that not only is the cuisine exceptional but so are the prices – and that’s the other ‘signature’ of Noori India!

    
Rob De Wet


 


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