“When I first came to Bangkok, I was French, French, French,” says Jeremy Tourret, explaining his approach to cooking. “Now my cuisine is Western style, but with new spices, herbs and flavours.”
The 31 year-old from suburban Paris is standing over the stoves in one of those open kitchens with a generous island workspace envied by domestic cooks. One that Jeremy describes as “small”. He’s showing me how to prepare a dish from the L’Appart menu – steamed snow fish, king crab, black ink risotto and tom kha beurre blanc.
As he talks, he adds the classic tom kha flavourings – kaffir lime, galangal, shallots – to infuse in coconut milk, hammering lemongrass with the flat of a knife and slicing “to bring out the flavours”.
He throws the pan on a low heat to simmer, then starts the risotto, pouring oil and chopped red onions into a small sauté pan. And sprinkling on salt to draw out the juice, “so the onions don’t brown – I don’t want the colour”. The rice goes in, and as it cooks Jeremy adds alternately chicken stock and squid ink, a few small ladles at a time so it doesn’t overcook.
“You want the rice to fatten as it absorbs the liquid,” he says. “It’s important to stir only gently, because you don’t want to break the surface of the grains.”
He wafts steam from the infusion towards his nose to test the aroma and decides the time is good to strain the coconut milk. He adds cream for body and a little fat: “Otherwise the liquid is too watery and the beurre blanc may separate.”
It goes back on the stove to reduce, before butter is added. As the butter melts, Jeremy places the thick snowfish steak to steam over water infused with more tom kha herbs and later adds a finger of pink crab meat. Finishing the risotto, he mixes in a little parmesan and butter: “Not mascarpone, it’s too rich with the beurre blanc.”
To serve, he pours the beurre blanc into the plate-well and spoons glistening inky grains of risotto into the centre as a bed for the block of white fish, the pink crab, and beads of black smoked herring roe. Squeezy bottle garnishes go round the side and it’s brightened with lemon foam and slivers of lemon peel confited for 10 hours.
Sitting eating in the restaurant, which is modelled on a posh Parisian apartment, the rich beurre blanc enhances the coconut of tom kha. The pair harmonise against the salty smoke of the fish roe and the merest hints of acidity from lemongrass and kaffir lime. The soft flakey fish contrasts with the bite of risotto.
It’s a clever balance of east and west; a delicate, elegant dish, gentle in its contrast of colours, textures and flavours. And it makes a conversation piece as interesting as the little oddities and objets d’art scattered around the room.
32F Hotel Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit, 189 Sukhumvit Rd
02-126-9999 | sofitel.com | 7pm-10.30pm (bar until 1am)