Zomato recently hosted a Masterclass with Chef Ninja Suksamai, who heads the kitchen at Sheraton Hyderabad’s pan-Asian restaurant InAzia. Chef Ninja hails from Thailand and was previously Chef De Cuisine at Shangri-La, New Delhi. After a quick sip of a mocktail, and a crash course in Thai ingredients, Chef Ninja welcomed us into her immaculately clean kitchen to cook with her.
After attending several cooking sessions at restaurants across the city, I’ve realised that I’m a bit too lethargic to put any of the gyaan into practical use. So, I decided to just observe Chef in action and to learn more about the cuisine and the ingredients. As far cooking sessions go, this was a moderately detailed one. A few pre-made sauces were used without delving into the process for making them, but Chef Ninja did offer plenty of opportunity to get involved in the cooking process. It’s a testament to Chef Ninja’s prowess that although almost everyone was cooking Thai for the first time, pretty much everything came out rather well.
InAzia is housed on the tenth floor of Sheraton and leads into Chime – the bar headed by flair bartender extraordinaire Amri B. Shroff. The decor of Inazia is an interesting blend of modern, upscale architecture with traditional oriental iconography. Tall, glass windows offers a panaromic view of the glitz and glamour of the Financial district as well as a glimpse of the yet untapped barren lands that lie beyond.
The lunch menu comprised mostly of the dishes that we cooked – a sort of ‘greatest hits’ collection of Thai cuisine. We started off with Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce, Som Tam Salad, and Tom Kha Hed. The satay was perfectly juicy and soft, but with a hint of resistance as you bite into it. Although I like my Peanut Sauce a tad thicker, the one that was served also worked quite well. I am not a salad guy, but I have been a fan of the Green Papaya salad ever since I had it at Phobidden Fruit. After having tasted a rather shabby version of the Som Tom salad a couple of days back at an Oriental restaurant in the city, I was thrilled to get the real thing at InAzia. The crunch of unripe papaya and peanuts, heat of the bird-eye chilli, tang of the lemon, and sweetness of the palm sugar came together in perfect harmony to made this deceptively simple looking salad an absolute delight. The Tom Kha soup is also a delicate fusion of flavours, but in this case, Chef had been a tad too liberal with the citrus juice. The soup was not bad by any means, but the acidity was overpowering the sweetness of the coconut milk as well as masking the essence of the lemongrass.
Next course was Thai Green Curry paired with Jasmine Rice and Shezwan Noodles with Fish in Hot and Sour sauce. The noodles and the fish were decent but didn’t really do anything to surprise or impress me. The Thai Green Curry is perhaps the spiciest among the Thai curries and also the most popular. Chef Ninja absolutely nailed this dish – the heat of the green chillies was ever present, but still left enough room for the sweetness of the coconut milk and the flavour of galangal and lemongrass to make an impact.
Zomato meetups are always incredibly fun, and this one was no different. I was pleased to have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and watch Chef Ninja deconstruct Thai cooking for us. The lunch that followed was consistently impressive and showcased the strengths of Thai cuisine. The menu chosen for the Zomato meetup didn’t offer much room to showcase the diversity or the innovativeness of the restaurant, but InAzia did get its basics right.