A Frenchman in Cambodia

This article was also published in the Financial Times. I was introduced to the particular ingredients and cooking techniques of Cambodian cooking by two very different chefs in three very distinct locations. The first was the petite, charming and memorably named Vandy Van, who is in charge of the cookery school attached to the Amansara hotel at Siem Reap, close to the extraordinary temples of Angkor. The kitchen is located on the first floor of an atmospheric old wooden Khmer village house naturally cooled by the wind that comes off…






Eating out in northern Thailand

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   That three of the world’s top chefs – Heston Blumenthal from England, Daniel Boulud from New York and France’s Pierre Gagnaire – were to be in the audience for my speech on the future of restaurants in hotels was a further inducement to accept the invitation to speak. The primary one, however, was that I was to do so in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. My enthusiasm was based on the memories of previous family trips to Thailand, where the colourful,…






Bangkok

Bangkok – 2010 I am sure that there are readers of this website, and my column in the Financial Times, who believe that I flit from one table to another without the slightest problem about reservations. That tables just magically appear as and when I want them at the right time and for precisely the right number. Things do go right most of the time, thanks to a combination of planning, access to the right telephone numbers and email addresses, and friends, some but not all in the restaurant or…






The Oriental, Bangkok

The Oriental, Bangkok The Oriental is not just a hotel but a landmark in Bangkok, an oasis of air-conditioned peace surrounded by traffic jams. It even serves afternoon tea in quarters once inhabited by the likes of Noel Coward. A brief ferry-ride across the Chao Phraya, the river that runs through the city’s heart, is the Oriental’s Thai restaurant, Sala Rim Naam, which must offer the bargain of the city: a lunchtime buffet from 12 to 2 every day supervised by a splendidly didactic female chef, which costs the equivalent…






Singapore

Singapore – 2006 During the 25 years I have known my brother-in-law I have never doubted a word he has said but I have always thought that his tales of quite how food-obsessed Singaporeans are bordered on hyperbole. Every time he returns from a trip to this verdant city-state to visit his wife’s enormous family, the tales of what he has eaten in their company grow more enviable – of enormous gatherings round the table whether they are visiting friends, going on numerous shopping trips or on longer trips to…






Bombay

Bombay – 2006 In a city as closely associated with trade as Mumbai in southern India it is not surprising that Rahul Akerkar, the chef/proprietor of Indigo restaurant and Sanjay Menon, one of the subcontinent’s leading wine merchants, look on the months of December, January and February with such relish. “It’s more than just the festive season,” Akerkar explained. “There is a record number of tourists as the weather is clement and most conspicuously it marks the return of so many NRIs [Non-Resident Indians] – from overseas. There’s a lot…






Ooh, aah Cantonese

Ooh, aah Cantonese – 2010 After Winchester, Oxford and a stint with Lehmann Brothers in Tokyo, Fergus Fung now has two seemingly disparate roles in Hong Kong. He is the founder of the annual WOM (Word of Mouth), the leading guide to HK’s restaurants, as well as being a district councillor for Deepwater Bay. And, having walked the streets of Hong Kong with him, I can vouch that his political skills certainly make it easier for him to discover what is going on behind the scenes and why Hong Kong…






Delhi

Delhi – 2001 No guide book or any of my friend’s reports fully alerted me to the magnificent colours, intense smells or vibrant freshness of the food along the streets of Delhi. Or of the ubiquity of the dhabas – as these street side restaurants are called, many of which revel in such unassuming names as The Glory, The National or The Chick-Inn – which jostle cheek by jowl to feed India’s teeming population. So strong in fact are these images that my three most memorable gastronomic impressions of an…






The Best Dim Sum In The World

The Best Dim Sum In The World – 2009 Initially, it appeared like a very one-sided contest. On one side of the swing door was Yan Tak, the highly talented chef of Lung King Heen (View of the Dragon) in charge of a brigade of 28 chefs at the dim sum restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong to which Michelin awarded three stars last year. On the other side and around my table were two women, one Hong Kong Chinese, the other Korean, whose elegant attire and…






Bangkok’s markets

Bangkok’s markets – 2004 It was just before noon on a Saturday in the lobby of The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok when the shadow of Bob Halliday first fell across me. It is a substantial shadow. Halliday in physique, girth and animated manner of speech quite closely resembles Britain’s Patrick Moore and both share the same passion for their chosen subjects. But while Moore’s is for the intangible, planets and galaxies, Halliday’s is for the food of south east Asia and Thailand in particular where he has lived since…