Full Flavoured At 30

Spice Market Thai Restaurant at Four Seasons Bangkok is celebrating its 30th anniversary this April

There might be a small wave of Thai cuisine renaissance going on right now in this capital. Many posh new hotels around town, instead of going all-out with fused-and-new cuisines, choose to stay with the staple local delicacies. Perhaps, we have come full circle to realize that it is the Thai dishes, after all, that satiate us most. We like spices, we like the fury heat, we like rice and we definitely like chilies.

Ambiance here reflects the old time spice trading routes that brought many unique flavourful food combinations

Spice Market at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok is celebrating its 30th anniversary this April. No big party for this big girl, though, but a quiet and hearty revisit of her continuous glory. As a restaurant that celebrates its anniversary the same time the hotel does, Spice Market is one of the oldest in-hotel Thai restaurants that continues to attract, in its own backstage hums, both regulars and new clients through thick and thin of the Thai food scene. Spice Market is where people dine, families come together, companies throw parties and locals take their beloved guests to enjoy the tasty flavours this country has to offer.

Story has it that Spice Market was first open with unique recipes handed down from one elite Thai chef whose love of Japanese cuisine’s delectable beauty reflected in her arrangements of many Thai dishes (soup arranged to resemble blooming floral, stuffed vegetables and squids assembled as a bouquet). She revealed her secrets to Spice Market when it first opened, and set the ground for this place to prosper. Time, however, changes everything including those original chefs and recipes. Now, Spice Market sticks to the Thai favorites, highlighting the local herbs and spices, home-made curries and wonderful and healthy chili pastes. You can come here ordering a full set of nine dishes including soup, salad, entrees, curry and chili dips, or you can satiate yourself with just a bowl of stir-fried rice noodle with chicken, depending on your hunger level because they are all excellent.

Clockwise: grilled chicken salad with young turmeric, young pork ribs with herbs and spices, soft crab with spicy basil sauce and the famous beef massamun

We were there the day that Spice Market’s Thai Chef Supanut Khanarak wanted to showcase her chili-and-herb capacity. She recommended that we tried their famous beef massamun curry (so good, full-bodied and really tender beef shank), and spicy salad of grilled chicken and young turmeric. Instead of using the typical fresh chili-and-lime dressing, the salad is infused with fried chili paste and adding to the flavours are fresh basil, toasted chili and shallots which rounded up perfectly with the flavour of the chicken and sauce. We also tried the young pork ribs with curry sauce which was quite nice, ribs tender and sauce smoothly herbal and well-balanced. The soft crab in basil sauce was equally nice; the battered and fried crabs went well with the usual spicy basil sauce we are so familiar with.

Clockwise: the delicious chili rong reur dip with deep-fried catfish and desserts of khao kraya koo, tab tim krob and my favorite ginkgo seeds and black sesame dumplings in ginger broth

But then we tried their nam prik long reur (fried chili paste with sweet pork rinds and salted egg). I was hit by a surprise of how good it was. The chili paste was tasty and well-balanced with a little bit of sourness, aromatic chilies and nutty smooth flavour of the salted egg. It was gorgeously served with crispy fried catfish and assorted fresh vegetables. Spice Market serves two steamed rice choices –  white and brown. Being such a health freak at home, I wholeheartedly went for the white version. I think the soft, tender yet slightly loose texture with a unique aroma of the white rice went much nicer with the massamun, salads and nam prik. 😀

We also tried so many other delicious dishes that day. If you like preserved shrimp paste, instead of nam prik long reur, you can order the thinner nam prik kapi (shrimp paste) served with real Thai platu mackerels (smaller in size yet with silky and velvety sweet meat than the larger mackerels you normally find in fresh markets) which was very delicious. I think Spice Market is the place you can bring friends over to enjoy their selections of these lovely chili dips (they also serve Northern style nam prik ong, but we had no space left to try). I also liked their one-dish meal of guay tiew kua gai (stir-fried rice noodle with chicken) and tom yum gung (the clear broth version with only fresh sea prawns and mushroom).

Classic and posh

It was then time for the desserts. While I was quite disappointed with their khao kraya koo (which is in fact supposed to be made from real young and very fragrant rice), I loved their bua loy nam king which is black sesame dumplings in ginger broth and ginkgo seeds. They also serve mango and sticky rice, tub tim grob and many other traditional Thai desserts such as steamed banana cakes and assorted Thai desserts. But if you want to stick to what they do best at this hotel, try their ice creams and sorbets which are also available in durian flavour to complete a distinct journey into Thai cuisine.

But still homey and relaxing

From April 13 onward, Spice Market also serves for lunch only Khao Chae – a traditional Thai summer platter with deep-fried shrimp paste balls, sweet turnip, stuffed shallots, sweet shredded pork, sweet shredded fish, and stuffed green chili in egg net blanket at Bt700++per set.

Spice Market at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok on Rajdamri Road is open daily for lunch (11.30-14.30) and dinner (18.00-22.30). Thanks to its relaxing with Oriental ambiance, it is one of my favorite spots to enjoy the hotel’s famous Sunday Brunch as well. Call T: 02-126-8866, extension 1234.

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