At the King's table
Fancy fresh, flavoursome Thai dishes fit for a monarch? Celebrity chef Aine McAteer shares the exotic but simple recipes that she cooked for the royal family in Thailand
One of the things I like most about my life as a personal chef is getting to travel to movie locations around the globe where I have the opportunity to connect with the local culture through food.
The biggest thrill of all was spending two months cooking among the chefs at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel while filming took place on the movie 'Shanghai' in Bangkok.
Not speaking their language was a challenge, as most of the chefs there had just a couple of words of English, but one thing I've learned from being thrown into so many interesting situations is the art of the chameleon -- being able to quickly blend in and find my groove.
A lot of osmosis took place during my time there, and not only on my part -- the chefs were equally intrigued by my style of cooking, and when the movie wrapped and it was time to bid farewell, I knew my presence among them would be missed.
The aim of my work as a healing chef is always to find balance, and one of the key elements in Thai cuisine is the perfect balance of flavours -- salty, sweet, hot (spicy), bitter and sour.
The abundance of fresh, flavoursome ingredients was a constant inspiration. Best of all was getting to dip into the supply of organic vegetables from the revered king's Royal Project to include in my dishes. They were brought in for the king and his family, who ordered their food daily from the hotel kitchen.
I always like to imagine that it's because I'm just such a lovely person that I'm granted these privileges, but I do have to admit that it may have something to do with the fact that I'm preparing dishes for the likes of John Cusack and Gong Li.
Some of these dishes are inspired by my time in the Mandarin Oriental, and the monkfish dumplings are my take on a dish from Thai House, my favourite Thai restaurant in Dalkey, Dublin, where I'm a regular customer. I hope you enjoy them.
Photos by Pat Moore
Food styling by Aine McAteer