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‘Charcoal’ cheers up Indian foodies in Bangkok

Enjoy Delhi and Mumbai'f famous street food in Bangkok too!

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Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology Restaurant, Bangkok Image: charcoalbkk.com

A ‘Spice Library’ with traditional condiments from all corners of India, Mumbai’s famous ‘Dabbawalas’, an Indian mixology concept at the bar to fire up your drinks and a restroom where you can hear the lively noises of Delhi’s famous Chandini Chowk area – all of this and more are on offer at the most unlikely of places, Bangkok.

In the Thai capital’s ever-busy Sukhumvit area, the Charcoal Tandoor Grill and Mixology has raised the bar for authentic Indian cuisine and that is evident from it being a runaway success, especially among foreigners. Located on the fifth floor of Fraser Suites in Sukhumvit’s Soi 11, Charcoal is not only about Indian food but also the tradition that is behind the popularity of this food.

“Charcoal offers authentic tandoori kebabs, char-grilled over glowing embers in our copper-clad ovens. People can enjoy the delicacies that come from the house of the Royal Moghuls,” Derrick Gooch, the general manager of Fraser Suites, told IANS as he excitedly took me through a brief journey about Charcoal’s existence, its food and the idea behind the effort.

“We wanted our food to be real, authentic Indian. We spent considerable time in India to pick the best chefs and cooks, raw materials and equipment. All our spices for the restaurant and other raw material still comes from India to ensure that authentic taste,” Gooch, who once worked with a leading resort near Gurgaon and has been settled in Thailand for the past nearly 14 years, pointed out.

The popular celebration dishes, made from centuries-old recipies, at Charcoal include murg angaar (charcoal), murg malai kebab, tandoori malai broccoli, sikandar ki raan (tender lamb), the softest possible paneer tikka and dum biryani.

“Our DNA is kebabs. We offer only two types of gravies in Indian food. We get a lot of foreign guests and they really relish the char-grilled food here,” restaurant manager Vijay Kamble, who worked in a leading hotel chain in Mumbai before moving to Bangkok, told IANS.

The Sunday brunch buffet (@ 999++ THB (Thai baht)/almost Rs,2000 per person) offers vegetarian and non-vegetarian kebabs with Indian breads.

“We lay a lot on stress on retaining the original flavour of the spices that we use. The idea is to ensure that our clients should be happy having Indian food here,” chef Manzoor, who hails from the City of Nawabs, Lucknow, told IANS.

There’s a unique about Charcoal.

The restaurant boasts of a whole wall that is a Spice Library. Spices are kept here in a traditional way while sharing information about them. Another wall depicts the Mumbai Dabbawalas concept in all its colours.

Related article: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate

Even the restroom in the restaurant is inimitable. “The moment you enter it, you will hear the real-time sounds of Delhi’s famous (and chaotic) Chandini Chowk area. The sound of vendors and honking of horns does not let you miss out on Delhi’s life,” Gooch pointed out.

The restaurant also offers the best variety of ‘paan’ (betel leaf) – straight from the popular Prince Paan Shop in New Delhi’s GK market. It is priced at THB 100.

“Our paans are the most authentic and fresh ones. We use Kolkata and Banarsi betel leaves. To suit the convenience of our foreign guests, we have smaller sized paans too,” Dev Singh, who hails originally from Nepal but has settled in Delhi for over three decades, said.

But what takes the cake is the Charcoal bar where lies the Mixology Studio. Signature cocktail creations come alive in a sophisticated industrial setting here.

“The cocktails here are combined with Indian spices to fire them up. We have a unique style of presentation too,” Kamble pointed out.

Cocktails like New Delhi Duty Free, comprising spices, honey, Bacardi, watermelon juice and mango, are served in a bottle-jar which is packed in a transparent plastic bag (like the ones in which liquor bottles are packed at duty-free shops at airports) along with a dummy Indian passport.

Other spiced up cocktails include Horn Ok Please (betel leaf, basil and gin), Mufftey Mai (gin and cucumber in a glass laced with chaat masala), 1947: Independence, Sialkot’s Gun Powder, Kolkata Rickshaw Fuel and many more.

At Charcoal, one will have to cook up excuses to explain over-eating!!

Here are some details of Charcoal:

Where: Charcoal Tandoor Grill and Mixology; 5/F, Fraser Suites, Sukhumvit Soi 11, Bangkok, Thailand. Timings: 6 p.m. till 12 a.m.

A meal for Two: THB 1,200 upwards (IANS)

  • Charcoal is nice. Lots of other great Indian restaurants in Bangkok too. Rang Mahal, Kabab Factory, Punjab Grill…

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This gives the Thai people an idea of how the Indian food is made and served. Just like how we enjoy Thai curry, they enjoy our dal fry

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  • Charcoal is nice. Lots of other great Indian restaurants in Bangkok too. Rang Mahal, Kabab Factory, Punjab Grill…

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This gives the Thai people an idea of how the Indian food is made and served. Just like how we enjoy Thai curry, they enjoy our dal fry

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Gourmet Grubs Squirm Onto American Plate

Culinary director, Jeremy Kittelson, says Linger is committed to changing the American palate. “As much as we love beef,” he says, “there’s no scientist who will tell you cattle farming is a sustainable practice. We should eat more insects."

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Andrew takes a tentative taste of baked, salted mealworm at Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch. VOA

A huge shipping container in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, is the home of some of the nation’s smallest livestock. Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch is Colorado’s first and only edible insect farm, and one of fewer than three dozen companies in the U.S. growing insects as human food or animal feed.

Wendy Lu McGill started her company in 2015, and today grows nearly 275 kilos of crickets and mealworms every month. “I want to be part of trying to figure out how to feed ourselves better as we have less land and water and a hotter planet and more people to feed,” she explains.

Wendy Lu McGill raises mealworms and crickets to sell to restaurants and food manufacturers.
Wendy Lu McGill raises mealworms and crickets to sell to restaurants and food manufacturers.

Feeding the world’s appetite for protein through beef and even chicken is unsustainable, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. Protein from bugs is more doable.

On the global menu

Edible insects are a great source of high quality protein and essential minerals such as calcium and iron. Edible grubs — insect larvae — offer all that, plus high quality fat, which is good for brain development.

Insects are part of the diet in many parts of the world. Analysts say the global edible insects market is poised to surpass $710 million by 2024, with some estimates as high as $1.2 billion. And while American consumers comprise a small percentage of that market today, there is growing demand for a variety of insect-infused products.

Thinking small

Amy Franklin is the founder of a non-profit called Farms for Orphans, which is working in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “What we do is farm bugs for food because in other countries where we work, they’re a really, really popular food,” she notes.

In Kinshasa’s markets, vendors sell platters of live wild-caught crickets plus big bowls of pulsating African Palm weevil larvae. These wild insects are only plentiful in certain seasons.

Farms for Orphans works with Congo Relief Mission, FAO in Kinshasa and the University of Kinshasa to set up small-scale palm weevil larvae farms to bring sustainable nutrition and economic empowerment to orphanages. (Courtesy: Farms for Orphans)
Farms for Orphans works with Congo Relief Mission, FAO in Kinshasa and the University of Kinshasa to set up small-scale palm weevil larvae farms to bring sustainable nutrition and economic empowerment to orphanages. (Courtesy: Farms for Orphans). VOA

Franklin’s group helps orphanages grow African Palm weevil larvae year round, in shipping containers. “Most of the orphanages don’t own any land. There really is no opportunity for them to grow a garden or to raise chickens. Insects are a protein source that they can grow in a very small space.”

Changing the American palate

It’s estimated that more than 2 billion people worldwide eat insects every day. And even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that consumption of crickets and mealworms is safe and that they are a natural protein source, many Americans, like Denver grandfather Terry Koelling, remain skeptical. As he and his grandchildren take a tour of Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch, he admits, “I don’t think they are very appealing, as something to put in your mouth. You see them around dead things, and it just does not appeal to me to eat something that wild.”

Koelling gets adventurous at Linger, a Denver restaurant that has had an insect entree on its menu for three years.

Culinary director, Jeremy Kittelson, says Linger is committed to changing the American palate. “As much as we love beef,” he says, “there’s no scientist who will tell you cattle farming is a sustainable practice. We should eat more insects.”

Also Read: US Military Planes Deliver Aid to Venezuela-Colombia Border

And so Koelling takes a forkful of the Cricket Soba Noodle dish, with black ants, sesame seeds and crickets mixed in with green tea soba noodles, and garnished with Chapuline Crickets.

“The seasoning’s great!” he says with surprise, adding, “Seems to me there weren’t enough crickets in it!” (VOA)