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Phuket: Creating smiles with somtum

PHUKET: Following the release of Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School’s Somtum: A Meeting of Flavours, Tastes & Cultures cookbook, The Phuket News caught up with Executive Master Chef Fabrice Danniel, the book’s creator.

By Claire Connell

Tuesday 26 March 2013, 05:13PM

Being a foreigner, was it difficult for you to compile a cookbook on Thai cuisine?

Not really because Le Cordon Bleu Dusit is based in Thailand, and this has inspired our team of chefs to create something that reflects our friendship and interaction with Thailand.

It was quite challenging for us to match French cuisine with Thai cuisine, but I think we produced a book that is very special. 

The book is called Somtum: A Meeting of Flavours, Tastes & Cultures and that expresses the essence of the project.

What research was involved?

We researched the history and background of somtum. We looked at all the different types of somtum dishes, and also analysed its core ingredients – that’s in the first part of the book. 

The second half of the book contains the 23 recipes created by my French and Thai team of chefs. I am very proud of their creativity.

I am also sure readers will appreciate the beauty of the photography and the food styling in the book, which helps bring out the magic of this unique cross-cultural culinary collaboration.

What are the important steps to follow when creating a cook book?

When producing a cookbook, you need to inspire both passion and creativity in your team of chefs.

Using the tastes, flavours and ingredients of somtum to produce something completely new was their challenge. We wanted to share our enjoyment with other people too!

What is you favourite recipe in the book?

Somtum macaroons! A French dessert with somtum filling – a very special combination.

Laguna Golf Phuket

What dish would you recommend beginner chefs start with?

Most of the recipes in this book can be undertaken by anyone who loves cooking and wants to practice. However, I would recommend readers to start with somtum macaroons. I think making them is not that difficult.

Is this the first cookbook you‘ve been involved with?

I have done a few other pastry books in the past. However, this was the first time that I really enjoyed blending my expertise and experience into the dazzling tastes and flavours of a local Thai dish like somtum. 

We started the project in 2008 and finished it in 2011. It took us more than three years to complete – it was a labour of love. It was created in between all the classes my chefs and I had to teach. It was a really intense period for us. 

We were also celebrating the fifth year anniversary of Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary school in Thailand. 

Then, quite unexpectedly, in late 2012 we were informed that our book had won ‘Best in the World (Asia)’ at the International Gourmand Cook Book awards in Paris. 

We were stunned – that our somtum book would receive such international recognition was beyond our wildest dreams. 

We were delighted and very proud. Then it was decided by our partners that all funds raised from sales of the book would be donated to Operation Smile Thailand.

Tell us about Operation Smile.

Thailand is often referred to as the land of smiles. Operation Smile (Thailand) provides surgery for children with cleft palates – often from poor urban or rural backgrounds. It puts the smiles back on their faces and brings joy and happiness to their families and friends.

I know that Dusit have been a great supporter of Operation Smile Thailand for many years and Le Cordon Bleu Dusit was happy to reinforce that support for a project which really makes a difference to children’s lives.

All funds raised from sales of ‘Somtum: A Meeting of Flavours, Tastes & Cultures’ will go to Operation Smile Thailand. For more details on purchasing the book visit tinyurl.com/somtum book. You can also purchase the book at Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket.



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