'Indian food is always intriguing'

'Indian food is always intriguing'

Expat zone

'Indian food is always intriguing'

Even as a small boy, Boonlurah Phanchai liked to eat something new everyday. The chef, who hails from Thailand, would watch his mother cook effortlessly and recalls rather vividly that she would never repeat any of the dishes.

     He would stand besides her whenever she cooked and ask her a lot of questions. It is not a wonder then that his experiments with cooking began when he was barely ten years old.

Cooking was a ritual that the household enjoyed. So without actually going through any formal training, Boonlurah picked up the basics of cooking and understood what went into making each dish special, quite early in his life. Today, Boonlurah is a chef with Zen at The Leela Palace.

Boonlurah is no stranger to India. He worked with the same hotel in Delhi for three years before moving to Bengaluru a while ago. He confesses that he can’t help but compare the two cities.

    “The one thing that struck me when I first landed in Bengaluru was the weather. After living in the extreme weather conditions of Delhi, coming to Bengaluru was a relief of sorts,” explains Boonlurah.

He says work leaves him with little time to do anything else but he has managed to snatch some time to move around MG Road and travel by the autos and buses as well.
    “The people and culture of both India and Thailand are similar. It’s interesting to note how tolerant people are over here. They are very accommodating to those from other cultures,” he states.

   But he laughs when he speaks about the impatient people waiting at signallights. “Most people waiting at signal lights keep honking even if it is blinking red. That’s a bad habit and something that people in Thailand would never do. They respect fellow passengers and follow road rules,” he says.  

Cooking is all Boonlurah has ever known since his childhood and he never shies away from experimenting and trying out the dishes of other countries. He has tried making a few Indian dishes as well. “I like ‘biryani’ and ‘rasmalai’ the most. I could never get tired of eating them over and over again. Indian food is always intriguing because of its many spices,” he says.

Like many other expatriates, Boonlurah also thinks India not only has a colourful culture but also makes entertaining movies and music. “I watched ‘Chennai Express’ just for Shah Rukh Khan because I think he’s an exceptional actor. In fact, his very first movie was remade into a Thai film, which I’ve watched a couple of times as well,” he adds.

Boonlurah has not only watched his favourite stars but had the chance to cook for actress Katrina Kaif as well when she visited The Leela Palace in Delhi. “The first time she came, I made a special dish in fish. When she came back, she asked for the same dish again. It’s only when I saw her in person that I realised that most Indian actors are simple people with simple tastes,” he adds.

He lives in Bengaluru all by himself and says he misses his family, especially his son Tako. Talking about the name Tako, Boonlurah explains that it means ‘octopus’. “When he was little, he would crawl all over the place and lay his hands on just about anything he came across. So we thought that Tako would suit him,” he says.

   Boonlurah is all set to visit his family who live in the Surin Province in Thailand in a few months. “I can’t wait to go back home and play with the little one. He is fond of football so he and I play a few friendly matches in our backyard. He also watches me cook, so I think he’s interested in cooking,” he smiles. Does he dish up some interesting food when he’s home? “No, I don’t cook. I eat only home-made food which is quite different from what I cook at the hotel. It’s the only time that I get to eat authentic Thai food. For a change, I take rest and my wife cooks for me,” he smiles. 

Boonlurah can understand Hindi and speak it in bits and pieces but he can’t follow other languages. “I make it a point to listen to the many languages that are spoken here. They all sound similar to me and I can’t really differentiate one from the other,” he sums up.

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