On Cruise Control

Just like the technological wonder ‘cruise control’ in cars becoming a relatively common sight nowadays, we need to move with the times and attach a cruise control to our lives. An automated control device, which, on a push of a button, allows the driver to lock his vehicle to a certain speed and maintain the same without the need to accelerate further, bordering on technical here but I am sure you get the point.

I am back after a small hiatus from South East Asia. It was the much needed button to set my life on a certain stable level. Too much happening too soon got me righteously accepting an invite from Ark Holidays, a Mumbai based travel company on a familiarization trip hosted by Star Cruises (Libra) and the Malaysian Tourism Board for sailing off on a food excursion of sorts to the South East of Asia. This was rightly needed as I was just about getting acquainted with the cuisines of Thailand and Malaysia (and a little coastal flavor) in India.

Star Cruise - Libra

This opportunity led me to a world of fine food and a diversified palate from the Andaman Coast. This cuisine is definitely not your regular fare but still high on taste, spice and versatility. The Nonchalant on the Cruise series begins with this post and shall take you through a delightful culinary trail and my personal experience on high seas in a thrilling ‘cruise controlled’ excursion with three wonderful people who share my penchant for food and all things gourmet. They love to travel, eat and talk about food nineteen to a dozen. Aneesh, an avid traveler, photographer and blogger for Conde Nast and GQ India – is a connoisseur of fine wine and food, the exuberant and free spirited pixie – Niharika who is also an enthusiastic traveler, foodie and part of an agency who are the largest sales agents for Star Cruises and her (enfant terrible in a subtle way) brother – Tej made up this bon vivant bunch.

Gangway

Star Cruise – Libra was our luxury vessel for the better part of the trip. Docked at the Swettenham Pier in Penang, this majestic 700 odd feet beauty was all set to welcome us aboard her opulent edifice on a perfectly sunny day. The moment we stepped into the gangway it was a red carpet moment and was in cruise control mode. The smiling and liveried crew worked like clockwork, we were barely inside and been shown our way to the cabins on the third level, when it took a moment to realize that I was already facing our Cabin No. 3212 and checking in. The cabin was equipped with a porthole giving an unrestricted view of the Andaman Sea. Plopping our carryon luggage (our bigger bags had to be checked in at the counter and would be delivered outside our cabins; look ma no-hands situation again) we set off to explore this massive ship.

Star Cruise - Libra, Deck & Pool

Libra - Upper Deck Bar & Bow

Every level was a goggling moment, innumerable restaurants serving up various cuisines ranging from buffets to fine dining, bars, ice-cream parlors and on-deck barbecue stations. Everywhere you turn, you would be sure to be within hands reach of a plate and some grub. The day could start with breakfast followed by lunch, tea, barbecue, high tea, dinner and end with supper. You could still throw in a Brunch, middle afternoon tea and cocktails to go with the flow and if you had the capacity to stand up or not move out from the restaurant. They ensure you never go hungry and ply you with the best of dishes and cuisines from around the world.

Tom Yum Soup Demo & BBQ on the Deck

We had a series of cooking demos which took place on board and were plied with enough activities throughout the day. The cooking demos were much sought after by me and the gang. We met with Frank Schmitt the Executive Chef on Board and the other Sous Chef’s who were more than willing to let us hover behind them while the cooked for the 1500 odd vacationers on board. One of the dishes I learnt was the local and popular soup called Tom Yum. A bunch of eager Asian women had gathered to view the food demo which took place on deck. I took my place at the back eagerly looking on myself at the prospect of learning this wonderful dish and also gulping down a freshly made hot bowl then and there.

I shall leave you with a wonderful recipe for the same, quite easy to get ingredients and the best part can be switched from the meat version to a vegetarian version. The recipe here is the correct meat version of the Tom Yum, teeming with local South East Asian flavors, but do look out for the vegetarian version which I have mentioned in a short note below the original recipe

Tom Yum (Soup)

Tom Yum (Soup)

Ingredients

(enough for four servings)

  • 5 cups Chicken Stock
  • 4 cloves Garlic minced
  • 1” pc Galangal minced
  • 1 tablsp Lemon Grass minced
  • 1 tablsp Coriander finely chopped
  • 4-5 nos Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • 1 fresh red chili minced
  • 1 tablsp Lime Juice
  • 1 tsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Nam Prik Pao Chili Sauce* or 1 tsp Red Chili Sauce
  • 2 tablsp Fish Sauce
  • A handful of shitake mushrooms
  • A handful of white button mushrooms
  • ½ cup Broccoli (cut into small flowerets)
  • ¼ cup Cherry Tomatoes (halved)
  • A dozen medium sized shrimps (raw and washed well)

Heat the chicken stock in a large soup pot and bring it to a boil. Throw in the lemon grass, kaffir lime, coriander and galangal and simmer till fragrant. Add the rest of the seasonings and the shrimp and stir till the shrimps are cooked (turn pink and plump). Check for taste, adjust salt and sugar according to your preference. You may add additional Nam Prik Pao for heat and add the vegetables. Stir for a couple of minutes and serve hot.

Vegetarian Variation:

For the vegetarian variation, use clear vegetable stock made of simple green onions, cauliflower and carrots. Use a simple red chili sauce instead of Nam Prik Pao and add a table spoon of dark soy sauce. Instead of shrimp you can use tofu, Chinese greens and some red bell peppers. The rest of the ingredients remain the same.

*Nam Prik Pao is a local Thai Chili Sauce usually made with Soya oil and quite popular, you can pick it up in specialty stores or Custom Notified Stores. It’s quite fiery due to the roasting of chilies before preparing and adding to the sauce, so go easy on it.

Keep your periscope vision glued to this site for many more cruise controlled experiences and recipes from Nonchalant on the Cruise

The Star CruisesLibra’ and the team of chefs and crew are given a special mention for making the cruise experience a memorable and one of a kind one. The service, food and enthusiasm are a commendable and combined effort of each and every member as they exemplarily display warmth and affection to each and every passenger.

The main dish photograph: ‘Tom Yum’ is courtesy of the Courtyard Marriott in Mumbai who serve up fantastic South East Asian Fare.Federal tax refund calculator2011 federal tax refund calculator2012 federal tax refund calculatorFederal tax refund calculator 2011Federal tax refund calculator 2012free tax return calculator 2011free tax return calculator 2012estimate tax refund 2011estimate tax refund 2012quick tax refund calculator 2011quick tax refund calculator 2012income tax refund estimator 2011income tax refund estimator 2012calculate tax refund 2011calculate tax refund 2012income tax refund calculator 20122012 refund estimator Chef Praiwan, the in-house Thai Chef from Thailand was kind enough to prepare the same for me especially for the camera. The Courtyard Marriott is one place which you can also visit in Mumbai for authentic South East Asian Cuisine.

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