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How to create the perfect wine dinner
Thursday 29 March 2012, 01:14PM
PHUKET: Following on the heels of a successful wine dinner at Mom Tri’s Villa Royale in Kata Noi, head chef Darren Wiper spoke to The Phuket News about the work involved in creating the perfect menu.  How long have you worked at Mom Tri’s? I have been working for Mom Tri nearly four years now. Prior to that I spent three years in Bermuda at a fine dining Mediterranean restaurant and wine bar, and before that three years in the south of France in a small 11th-century medieval village on the Côte d’Azur. If I had to specify my cooking style, I would say French cuisine with a contemporary element.  What is involved in creating a successful wine dinner? It is very important that the food and wine go up in stages with each course.Strong intense flavours with the food should be paired with a more full-bodied wine. The first thing is consulting with the wine director who points out the characteristics of the wine. He will suggest what flavours or ingredients will bring out the best for the wine. Often with our wine dinners the wine is selected by the wine companies or distributors, then we must pair the food to the wine. If the wine dinner has a theme we must also match the food to the theme. For example, for our latest wine dinner we had New Zealand wines so we served lamb.Once I have finalised a menu I pass it to Georges Ciret, our wine director.  What is your absolutely favourite dish to cook? I prefer braised slow cooked meats such as pork belly, lamb shank or veal cheek stew. These are more homely cuts of meat but can still be made into refined restaurant dishes. What is your signature dish at Mom Tri’s? Pork belly and sea scallop with a curried pumpkin puree, rhubarb and ginger chutney (B890++). Pork belly is a classic home cooked dish which we serve with a restaurant twist and presentation.
Kiwi wine makes a splash in Phuket
Friday 23 March 2012, 10:30AM
PHUKET: Pip Austin, General Manager of New Zealand’s Asia Pacific Sileni Estates wine company, was in Phuket last week to host a wine dinner in conjunction with Mom Tri’s Villa Royale in Kata Noi. She spoke to The Phuket News about the company’s ambitions and increasing involvement in Phuket. Tell us about Sileni Based in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, Sileni was founded by the Avery and Edmonds families. Graeme Avery’s former business was medical and pharmaceutical publishing, however his great love of wine led him to establish Sileni Estates with winemaker Grant Edmonds in the Hawke’s Bay area in 1997. Grant was the former chief winemaker of the Villa Maria Group (New Zealand’s second largest winery). Sileni’s first vintage was in 1998, and until 2002 all of Sileni’s wines were made from its own vineyards in Hawke’s Bay. In that year though, Sileni started making Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough today is New Zealand’s 8th largest wine company, currently exporting to 60 international markets. What wines does Sileni specialise in? The classic French varietals, including Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah. All of Sileni’s wines, with the exception of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, are grown in Hawke’s Bay and are characterised by their food friendly style. At Sileni we like to describe our wines as having New World fruit with Old World elegance. We are also one of the founding winery members of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand initiative and all of Sileni’s wines are sustainably made. This means that the wines are made in such a way that they have a positive impact on the environment both in the vineyard and the winery. What is Sileni Estates’ involvement in the Asian and Phuket markets? Sileni has been exporting to Asia for 10 years, and it has always been a very important market for us. As we were producing more red wines in the early years, Asia became a natural fit for us as red wine was more popular than white, and the fruit driven and elegant qualities of our wines appealed to the consumer, and worked well in the warm and humid climate. We have been exporting to Thailand for around eight years, and Phuket has always been a very strong market with many hotels featuring Sileni wines.We were one of the first New Zealand wineries to enter the Phuket market, and we see a natural fit between our wine and the relaxed alfresco lifestyle here. What are the key ingredients involved in hosting a successful wine dinner? A great wine dinner is about the wine and food matching seamlessly together.When selecting a wine to go with a particular dish it is always important to look for similar aroma, flavour and textural elements in the food. This often means that the old adage of white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat is completely incorrect. A great example of this is the barracuda fillet that was served with Sileni’s Cellar Selection Hawke’s Bay Pinot Noir at the wine dinner on Saturday evening.Normally one wouldn’t expect a white fish to be served with a Pinot Noir, however this dish includes some complementary flavours in the cauliflower and beetroot purée and the wine is featured in Pinot Noir reduction.
Healthy eating and raw food workshop comes to Phuket
Friday 23 March 2012, 10:24AM
PHUKET: Phuket raw food consultant Sylvie Yaffe will host ‘Healthy Food 101: Introduction to health food and vegan-raw foods’ in Nai Harn next Thursday (March 29) evening. Sylvie hopes to educate Phuketians about the importance of making healthier food choices, and paying attention to the ingredients in everything we eat. Accordingly, the introductory workshop will include food demonstrations and help with reading food labels. A graduate from the Matthew Kenney Academy in the US state of Oklahoma, the only classically structured raw and living foods educational centre in the world, Sylvie has lived in Phuket for the last 11 years. She is also a consultant for the Good Karma Thailand health food store. “Because of my own relationship with food I’ve always been interested in health and nutrition”, says Sylvie. Sylvie eats an 80 per cent vegetarian diet, and about 50 per cent raw food, which is a plant-based diet consisting of nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables, with nothing cooked over 42 degrees Celsius. “Raw food is the solution for me. “It is guilt-free and every ingredient has nutritional value, when I first discovered raw food I knew this was the answer.” In 2010 she hosted a workshop with celebrity raw food chef Ani Phyo. So popular it was standing room only, she realised that there was local demand in learning more about healthy eating in general. Healthy Food 101 will be held at the Book Cafe in Nai Harn ( on March 29 at 6pm. Although free of charge, there is limited seating available, and guests must be over 15 years-old. To reserve a seat call 085-794-2371, or email The event is sponsored by Good Karma Thailand health food store ( and Pura Organic (
Tasting the extraordinary
Thursday 15 March 2012, 04:39PM
PHUKET: Chef Ronnie Macuja was offered his first job in Phuket while working at a top hotel in New Zealand. That was 12 years ago. Since then, the Filipino has become one of the island’s best chefs, with a string of accolades to his name. He is now the executive chef for the Vset Restaurant, at Chalong Pier, a name that aptly means ‘extraordinary’ in Thai. Chef Ronnie actually graduated from university with a degree in marine engineering. But his true dream was to work in the kitchen, and he picked up an apprenticeship at the Hilton in Manila, before working his way up to New Zealand’s Hyatt Regency hotel restaurant, Top of the Town. Many years later, Chef Ronnie was approached by Phuket businesswoman Wallee Pachantabutr, who was looking for a head chef for her Impiana Resort restaurant, Sala Bua. Chef Ronnie was at the time working at the Sky Tower Restaurant in central Auckland, where Khun Wallee was a guest. Khun Wallee was so impressed with her meal, she wrote a note to Chef Ronnie to say would he, or any of his team, be interested in taking up the position in Phuket. The rest is history. Chef Ronnie snapped up the offer, and within a month he was preparing the resort’s Christmas Eve feast. He worked at Impiana for 10 years, and as executive chef he won the International Salon Culinaire Competition three times, an international cooking competition designed to test the skill of entrants by giving them a set list of ingredients to produce their creations. The wins were the icing on the cake to his ever growing tally of awards, many of which came while he was working in New Zealand. Two years ago Chef Ronnie started work at Vset, the Pachantabutr family’s new project. The stylish modern restaurant is situated overlooking Chalong Bay. The décor is natural, with dark brown wood combing with a palette of green, and sea views. The food is “modern, trendy, Western cuisine”, with an emphasis on fantastic beef and lamb cuts, cooked to perfection thanks to his New Zealand experience. Chef Ronnie’s signature dishes including the Australian Black Angus, comprised of grilled tournedos of beef, herb potato confit, lobster medallion, and pearl vegetable vinaigrette (B1,290), the Australian lamb cutlet, one of the top selling dishes of 2011 (B850), and the ravioli – a wonton wrapped blue swimmer crab with Chinese butter sauce (B280). Excellent taste aside, the presentation is truly outstanding. The dinner menu has a wide variety of meat and seafood choices, including beef, lamb, chicken, duck, salmon, red snapper, king pawn, lobster, foie gras and pork chops. Entrees cost around B250, while mains are priced between B460 and B2,250 (for the excellent Phuket lobster). The restaurant is also open for lunch and breakfast, with plenty of light meal options perfect for a sunny Phuket day.So what is the secret of Ronnie’s success? “Cooking is all about learning, and the learning never stops,” says the always modest chef.Vset Restaurant, Chalong Pier road (next to Kan Eang @ Pier), 076-381-159,;
Biodynamic combination
Thursday 15 March 2012, 04:28PM
“Le vin naît du ciel et de la terre … De l’amour qu’on lui porte (The wine is born of sky and earth … of the love that one adds to it),” said Monsieur Chapoutier, founder of the French winery, whose flavourful wines we are having pleasure sampling. Centara Grand Beach Resort’s Mare restaurant has again arranged a well-matched combination on Friday March 9: the cookery skills of its Spanish Executive Chef Sandro Aquiler and the robust wines from the Rhône valley, watered by melted snow from the French Alps. Well might Stéphane Barlerin, Exporter Director of M. Chapoutier, be smiling broadly. His large winery exports 15 million bottles all over the world and he explains that the sometimes steep river banks of the Rhône grows excellent shiraz grapes, known for its fruity, full-bodied taste loved by many. The vineyard is also unique as it is fertilised wholely biodynamically. The fertiliser, made from burying cow dung in cow horns to cure and the solution watered strictly according to cycles of the moon, works in a homeopathic way, with a little going a long way, achieving organic results. Chef Aquiler’s turns his kitchen into a French one for the night: Roasted shrimp with salad and truffle; Cod steak with cream of cauliflower and parmesan (this writer’s favourite); Bresse chicken with herbs, endive and avocado; Roast beef fillet, the Burgundy way, and exotic fruit salad. Glass after different glass of exceptionally smooth and fullsome whites and reds accompanied the fine dishes in this most satisfying culinary evening.
Put some delicious jelly in your belly
Thursday 15 March 2012, 02:58PM
High season has arrived in Phuket, and soon the hottest month of the year, April, will be upon us. It is the perfect time to eat something cold and sweet, and we have found the answer, delicious o aew. My mother, who is somewhat of an expert at making this Thai dessert, says the main ingredient of the iced sweet treat is o aew jelly. “O aew is very similar to jelly, but a little different. I first immerse o aew seeds in water, then mix them with banana jelly and jia gor (the Chinese name of a drying agent using magnesium sulfate). I leave it to set before then serving it with ice and sweet syrup. “I think this o aew jelly is softer, stickier and more delicious than normal jelly because it is made from natural ingredients,” she says. “But sometimes people serve regular jelly as o aew in some restaurants.” There are many ways to order the dessert, including with red bean or black grass jelly and ice, or with red syrup on the top. “It is interesting that people use colour coding to order their favourite o aew,” says mum. “People can ask for khao (white) for o aew jelly, dam (black) for black grass jelly, and daeng (red) for red bean.” O aew is very popular all across Phuket, and the original can be found only on the island. The three best places to enjoy delicious o aew are on Soi Soon Uthit on Yaowarat Rd (near the Dibuk intersection); at Dibuk intersection (inside the Loktian local food centre); and at the Cham Cha market on Ranong Rd (near Lor Rong shrine). The dessert is normally priced at B10-20.
A thing of great beauty
Thursday 15 March 2012, 02:56PM
Thai chef Tammasak “Noi” Chootong opened up his first restaurant just over one year ago. Practically ever since then, his Suay Restaurant in Phuket Town has been ranked one of the best on the island. The acclaim is largely due to the talent of Khun Noi, who has a string of accolades to his name and experience at the JW Marriott Resort & Spa Phuket, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, Renaissance by Marriott Resort and Spa Koh Samui, and time working on-board luxury liner Queen Elizabeth II. It was while he was working at the Marriott that he was awarded Manager of the Year 2005, Tsunami Hero for 2005 (after rescuing a man in the 2004 tsunami and getting him to hospital), an Outstanding Performance award, and a Leadership award for the hotel’s kitchen team. Khun Noi, 38, has travelled extensively and is fluent in German, Thai and English. Born in Hat Yai, he moved to Stuttgart, Germany, with his family as a teenager. He was raised there, and graduated with a masters degree in kitchen development from the German Ueberkingen culinary school in 1994. In 1999, after five years at the Maritim Hotel in Stuttgart and the Michelin-star Top Air Restaurant, he joined the QEII, before returning to Germany, and arriving back in Thailand around eight years ago. He joined the Marriott, then in 2007 began work at Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts as their Corporate Thai Chef, working around the world to develop and implement the Saffron signature Thai restaurant in 10 Banyan Tree resorts, before becoming Area Executive Chef for the Banyan Tree Bintan Indonesia. Looking to develop his own brand, Khun Noi left Banyan Tree and, alongside his sister Mam, opened Suay in Phuket Town in November 2010. Since then, the restaurant has gone from strength to strength, and is currently ranked Phuket’s number one restaurant on TripAdvisor, out of a total of 569 listings. His concept is simple – delivering high quality food at reasonable prices, meaning locals can afford to dine there often. The restaurant is a white and pale-green cottage, surrounded by lush garden. The décor is at once sharp, crisp, elegant and airy, with incredibly reasonable prices. Most of the dishes on the menu range from B80 to around B200, though of course there are high-end options for up to B600. Signature dishes include the steamed salmon with rice noodle in yellow curry (B129), spicy yellow fin tuna salad (B99), grilled US sea scallops with spicy exotic fruit salad (B250), and the mango sticky rice spring roll with black sesame ice-cream for B80.“The food is Thai contemporary. It still has authentic Thai taste, but is presented in a modern, Western way,” says Khun Noi. “It’s about making people trust you and your food. People know what they are getting when they come here.” That is to say, they’re getting nothing but the best. Suay Restaurant, 50/2 Takuapa Rd, Phuket Town, 087-888-6990;,