Floral feast in fine Thai cuisine

Spicy fish salad in Khao Kwan. (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)

A simple but very effective way to elevate any kitchen is to add a splash of color with edible flowers. This applies to both salty and sweet, including drinks. For a long time, Thai dishes have been professionally rendered with an aesthetic touch of edible flowers. Currently, a number of Thai gourmet restaurants and large cafes are increasingly using edible flowers as seasonal ingredients. They are pleasing to the eye and very photogenic for Instagramers.

Edible flowers are quite common for home cooking with butterfly pea flavors (Dok Anchan), Virginia creeper flower (Dok Kjon), Sesbania flower (Dok Sano) or Hummingbird Flower of Sesban Agasta (Dok Khae) are common among Thai foodies. These are mainly served as vegetables as an accompaniment to dishes. Still, use for seasoning and aesthetic purposes—primarily for creating and elevating dishes—has become increasingly popular in recent years.

“Personally, I think I’ve exhausted the flowers in my creation as I have for two decades. I started by picking flowers from my friend’s garden to create dishes and from that starting point there is no going back. Right now, I would like to find a new twist to my cooking because this time I would like to pursue forest cooking,” Jarunwan Boonwiwatana, self-taught chef and restaurant owner Homemade Cooking, told Thai PBS World.

Aperitif served at Homemade Cooking. (Photo by Dae Warunee)

Home cooking (Tam Sua Tam Suan in Thai) is open by reservation only. In fact, it is well known to foodies as a “chef’s table” restaurant. The small size in an old-fashioned raw house on Decho Road can seat around 10 people at a time, but the restaurant has attracted celebrity chefs, foodies, foodies and loyal fans from nearby offices for more than 20 years through its different approaches. in Jaruwan’s creativity in gastronomy.

For two decades, Jaruwan has mastered the science of edible flowers in each of his gourmet dishes. First of all, not all flowers are edible, but many of them are safe to eat. The chef knows the best edible flowers to pick. “A simple rule is if it’s a fruit flower, then it can be eaten. And those without ‘rubber’ can be eaten,” she said.

Flowers on any plate in Homemade Cooking brighten up the dish, and they come in a fresh, colorful form, such as on rolls, a salad, on the side of a chili dip; or fried as in the case of Somtam Tod (fried papaya salad).

Fruit salad at Homecook restaurant. (Photo by Dae Warunee)

Although the flowers are to please the eye, they serve a purpose in the dish that every Thai chef can tell. Homemade Cooking is obviously not the only “small but beautiful” restaurant when it comes to fine dining with lots of edible flowers on the plate. In Koh Chang (Chang Island), in the eastern province of Trat, Khao Kwan restaurant has made it the best Thai gourmet dish and all dishes are accompanied by colorful flowers.

Nongrat Noppawan, chef and owner of Khao Kwan, uses the flower as a beautiful garnish and also to complete the flavor profile of the dish. She would surprise customers with a spicy local fish salad (Pla Yum Sawad) that looks like a colorful round cake. The flower and dragon fruit on top give the overall pleasing texture of the dish. Like Jaruwan, Nongrat, which also has a Thai cooking school on the island, uses lots of chickpeas and flower-like dianthus in a fresh spring roll or appetizer dish.

“I wanted to create Thai cuisine that offers a new experience to customers. I would decorate and create the dish differently and beautifully for satisfaction,” Nongrat told Thai PBS World.

Miang Kleep Bua at the Divana Signature Cafe. (Photo by Panee Chevapark)

The flower looks like a finishing touch in every delicate Thai menu but in some cases it could also be the main ingredient as in the case of Miang Kleep Bua, an appetizer that is now increasingly popular among top restaurants. In Bangkok, the Divana Signature Café serves Miang Kleep Bua (grilled coconut, herbs and caramelized fish sauce served on fresh lotus petals) as a starter to accompany its flowery drinks and high tea set. All drinks are beautifully decorated with flowers, which matches its garden-style setting in the middle of the Central World mall.

Edible flowers are always best when freshly picked from the garden. They will taste best if picked early in the morning before they have had too much sun. Pattanapong Ranuraksa, co-founder of the Divana Signature Café, said he first incorporated flowers into drinks and snacks from his own rooftop garden so they were fresh and safe. As for the lotus petal used in Miang, it must ensure the absence of pesticides and cleanliness before serving it to customers. It is very important that they are free of pesticides for safe consumption.

Khao Kwan’s Nongrat is an avid flower grower, so what customers see on each plate is from her own garden. From growing flowers as a hobby, she expanded her flower garden in order to have enough for the restaurant.

“So you can be sure that all the flowers in my house are completely safe,” Nongrat said.

Although she uses more than two dozen flower types on her menu, Nongrat said the main types are Wishbone, Mexican Creeper, Pentas and Butterfly Pea. “It also depends on the season, but normally I use about a large bowl of butterfly peas and two cups of Wishbone flower a day. Some flowers such as Star Fruit flower are hard to come by during the rainy season.

Most of those who give flowers know well how to combine natural beauty with taste and luckily they are all food safety conscious so the next time you go to a fine dining restaurant and see flowers like dianthus or rosy red nasturtiums – do not hesitate to finish it. What is served is what is good and safe to eat in fine dining restaurants.

By Veena Thoopkrajae

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