Travel writer M’Liss Hinshaw finds pungent smells, exotic fruits and the biggest prawns she has ever seen when she spends a morning touring Bangkok’s Food Market with Azamara Journey’s Executive Chef Fabio D’Agosta.
Bangkok, Thailand, is known for its countless open air markets where meats, fish, produce and flowers are purchased at bargain prices. It’s usually where the locals can be found, buying from those they trust.
Executive Chef Fabio D’Agosta led a small group of passengers from our Azamara Journey ship to the market and shopping was only part of the excursion.
Being in uncertain territories, we followed Chef’s footsteps from stall to stall. I heard heavy rain pouring outside and saw shopkeepers squeegeeing the wet floor, adding to the intrigue of the market.
Discussion began about the dreaded durian fruit and eating it was not on my radar.
I watched a woman as she took her big knife, more like a small machete, whack each one for ripeness. Green-colored with spike-like thorns, and resembling a porcupine, durian is known for having a powerful smell and an acquired taste.
Citrusy pomelo fruit had more appeal to this American tourist.
Like an oversized and unassuming grapefruit, once sliced, each section of the fruit has a sweet and cooling taste. I imagined it to go well after a spicy meal, calming the senses.
Chef meandered to his favorite sellers of green leafy produce and inspected the lemongrass, basil and mint before buying. His purchases would become our dinner later that night.
Deep in thought about which fish to buy to complement the produce, he picked out prawns laying in ice and a chunk of white fish.
Rounding out his purchases were spices and a mound of thick green chili paste scooped into a bag and sealed tightly. It all went into the basket, while Chef assured us he’d go light with the spice in his prepared dishes.
Once back on board the ship, we each went our own way to anticipate dinner to be held hours later.
Arriving into the specialty dining area of Prime C restaurant, we found the table was elegantly set and fit for royalty. The dinner plates were so gorgeous, I had to peek at the name. Raynaud Limoges, no less!
First course served was shrimp and sweet basil spring roll accompanied by morning glory salad. This was no ordinary spring roll from the freezer, being hand rolled with market ingredients, Chef’s spring roll made for a crunchy moment.
Next, served in wide rim bowls, was Thai hot and sour soup poured over a base of mushroom mousse. The creamy mousse resembled an island, with the delicate spiced soup surrounding the shoreline.
Chef appeared between courses and answered our questions.
We learned he was from Sicily and had a passion for cooking since his youth. He’d graduated from culinary school and began working with international kitchen staff who introduced him to different flavors and techniques.
While working in England, he had the opportunity to cook for royalty at Windsor Castle. And, since joining the cruise ship industry many years ago, he had enhanced his cooking methods with the help of culturally-diverse kitchen crews. Chef told us he was always ready to experiment with tastes and textures to please his guests.
Later, palate-cleansing sorbet was served in a martini glass and topped with a mint leaf. Chef had cleverly incorporated fresh tamarind (which is very good for the body) with orange juice to pique the taste buds.
The main course consisted of a show-stopper pork lollipop, complete with a lemongrass stem that looked like a protruding bone. Chef’s pork was seasoned just right with chili spices that trailed in the background.
Ending the meal were selections of sticky rice pudding, lightly sweet, yet satisfying.
All the ingredients purchased earlier in Bangkok’s Food Market were skillfully used in each course, allowing me a new vision of Asian cuisine.