Published on September 10, 2007
Gourmets rejoice! The menu created by the Oriental's chef Norbert Kostner for foreign monarchs at the Royal Banquet celebrating the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King's accession to the throne last year can now be whipped up in your own kitchens.
The recipes are featured in "Aroy Dee Thee Chiang Mai" ("Tasty in Chiang Mai"), an exquisitely photographed coffee-table book recently launched by The Royal Project Foundation under the supervision of its marketing adviser, MR Datchrabimol Tunganaga, the eldest daughter of foundation chairman HSH Prince Bhisatej Rajani.
The title, the fifth in a series of cookery books published by the foundation, also highlights a range of delicious Thai and European dishes, as well as local desserts made from ingredients grown in the Royal Project.
"We came up with the idea of creating cookery books based on ingredients from the Royal Project five years ago and we've published one every year since then," says MR Datchrabimol, who has been working for the foundation for 12 years.
"We take advantage of the lower temperatures of the cool season to plant a range of foreign vegetables, which cuts down on imports and allows our farmers to get better prices than they would for local produce. But it's also important that buyers know the best ways of preparing and cooking them," she says.
The first book, "Aroy Kab Doi Kham" ("Tasty with Doikham"), featured a collection of recipes graciously offered by HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and his Royal Consort HRH Princess Srirasmi, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, HRH Princess Chulabhorn Valayalaksana and HRH Princess Somsavali.
"In creating the menus for this book, HRH Princess Sirindhorn went to the market, cooked and took pictures, while HRH Princess Chulabhorn granted us an audience at the palace. She even roasted the chickens," recalls MR Datchrabimol.
The second book entitled "Doi Kham, Desserts, Drinks and Flowers", compiles the favourite menus of Their Majesties.
"His Majesty likes ha kao [dumplings] and Her Majesty enjoys kao mao' [rice kernels roasted and pounded flat], khanom tuay jeen and tuna puff. We also feature pictures of the table where Their Majesties sit to eat their snacks," she says.
The third book, "Nam Pan Doi Kham", offers some 30 recipes for drinks.
MR Datchrabimol herself came up with the illustrations for the fourth title, "Im Aroy Kab Doi Kham". "We didn't have the time to take photos," she explains.
She is very proud that His Majesty granted permission to use the recipes for the banquet served to foreign monarchs on June 13 last year. She also feels honoured at having been able to photograph the dishes on the royal plates, which are embossed with the Royal Initials "Phor Por Ror" of His Majesty the King.
When MR Datchrabimol joined the foundation 12 years ago, her first task was to identify the main problems and needs of local people affected by recent flooding.
"The suffering of the people is the suffering of Their Majesties the King and Queen," she says.
The King conceived and launched the Royal Project in 1969 to eradicate opium-poppy cultivation and develop a sustainable agricultural programme that would provide the hilltribe with alternative cash crops. He assigned Prince Bhisatej to carry out research and development in the area, and over the last three decades, experts and volunteers fromChiang Mai, Kasetsart and Mae Jo universities have contributed to studies on soil, weather and suitable types of agricultural produce.
The Royal Project Foundation was created in March 1992.
"Thanks to the support in both production and marketing from the foundation, the lifestyle of the mountain people has changed tremendously. They've gone from carrying goods on shoulder poles to a motorcycle, to a pickup truck, and now to owning three trucks each," laughs MR Datchrabimol.
"His Majesty says that we should grow many types of vegetables in order to be secure and to offer a wide selection. Also, he doesn't like people to live in luxury; he prefers them to preserve their culture and to learn to take care of themselves. When they are sick, they should go to see a doctor rather than a faith healer."
The extent to which the Royal Project has succeeded in improving the lives of the hilltribes and in growing a wide variety of produce was evident at the Royal Project Festival, which ended yesterday. Visitors snapped up the fresh fruits and vegetables and were excited to discover there were more than 80 kinds of fresh herbs on offer.
Also available for tasting was the red-claw crayfish, which was served at last year's banquet. The recipe for the dish can be found in the new cookery book.
Visitors could also be assured that the Royal Project's fruits and vegetables don't just taste fresh - they're also free of pesticides and great for the health.
"Like the figs," says MR Datchrabimol.
"His Majesty used to tell us that when he was younger, he had problem with digestion, so the Princess Mother gave him figs."
"Tasty in Chiang Mai" is priced at Bt400 and available at bookstores nationwide.