As I walked down the plush, carpeted age-old corridor overlooking the gorgeous pool of The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata, completely oblivious to the people around me, I felt familiar pangs of nostalgia. This was not my first visit, yet each time I step into this heritage property standing fiercely amidst the hustle-bustle of the City of Joy, I can’t help but feel intimidated by it’s sheer grandeur. The mere thought of the walls and pillars being witnesses to decades of history never fails to give me goosebumps even at my Nth visit.
That day was special in a lot of ways. The luxurious Baan Thai, Oberoi Grand’s fine dining Thai restaurant had invited us for a unique cooking face-off. If the royalty of the Oberoi Grand intimidates me, Baan Thai encapsulates me with warmth. Baan Thai reminds me of a demure Thai woman welcoming us to experience her culture with the brightest smile and an enthusiastic “Sawasdee Kha”. There’re dim lights, fine wood, rich silk, hushed tones and unbeatable flavours that unwaiveringly manage to transport me to a different land altogether. True to it’s name, Baan Thai delivers an experience that’s complete with its ambience and food, be it the subtle flavour of lemongrass, the gentle spice of the Thai Curry or the mild sweetness of the Thapthim Krob. As the beautiful girl clad in Oriental Silk offered me my welcome drink, I couldn’t help but get reminded of the River Cruise at Bangkok. It almost felt like magic.
“Here are your aprons and hats”, announced one of the Chefs.
This was actually happening! For someone who had never stepped into the kitchen unless absolutely necessary would be cooking in the Baan Thai kitchen along with some of the finest food bloggers of the City! It felt unreal. We were quickly formed into teams, and thankfully I was paired with Anindya, who apart from being my brother from another mother, was also an expert cook. Before we started off with our culinary skills, their expert Chef from Thailand demonstrated how he looks the authentic Som Tam (papaya salad) and the Thai Curry.
We were given 30 minutes to cook both and though I literally made a mess of the Som Tam, Anindya did a fine job with the Thai Curry. The wonderful delegates from the Thai Consulate judged our skills. Although our team did not win, the experience was priceless.
The few minutes I spent with the spices and the Mortar and Pestle made me realise cooking is indeed a therapy. For the first time ever I experienced the Thai cuisine using all my senses and the feeling was inexplicable. It has been a little over a week since this happened and I’ve already started frequenting the kitchen.
Baan Thai is not just a restaurant, it is an experience. The authentic flavours of Thai food amalgamates with the quaint ambience and heightens one’s senses in unimaginable ways. It made me realise of a therapy that I never knew existed.