My first trip to Thailand was around ten years ago. Only my second time visiting Asia and full of excitement at the promise of somewhere so exotic and unlike my home. Of course I fell head over heels in love with the country – the culture, the people but most of all the food. Returning with Mr S years later I couldn’t wait to once again enjoy those flavours; the aromatic lemongrass, chilli, pepper and those distinctive sour notes from the lime and tamarind. Of course we get very good Thai food in London nowadays and you don’t need to endure a thirteen hour flights in order to enjoy it.
A particular experience Thai food lovers should be aware of is Chang Sensory Trails, an event taking place in London on Saturday 12th May at the Last Days of Shoreditch. Hosted by Chang Beer, a favourite not only in Thailand but around the world, it’s set to be an extravaganza of sound, taste and scent.
Inspired by the Thai philosophy of Lamiat, the multi-sensory experience celebrates kinship among friends and strangers and will unite Thai food, art and music (including two up and coming bands) all refreshingly paired with Chang Beer.
Central to the event is a partnership with eight popular London Thai Restaurants: Tawana, Bang Bang Soho, Patara,101 Thai Kitchen, LAO Cafe, Rosa’s Thai Cafe, Thai Tho and Nipa Thai. The race is on and each head chef has been challenged to create a signature dish that best represents Thai home cooking.
I’ll be heading down to the VIP Chef’s Table at the Chang Sensory Trails to sample all eight dishes but I didn’t have to wait until the 12th of May as I headed down to Rosa’s Thai Cafe on Ganton Street in Soho for a preview.
I’ve heard lots about Rosa’s, often lauded as one of the most authentic Thai places in London but I hadn’t visited until now. Fortunately for me, the signature dish a Rosa’s Thai Cafe was my favourite Thai dish of all time: Tom Yum Noodles!
If you’ve not had Tom Yum soup before it’s a dish that combines every taste being all at once bitter, sour, sweet and salty. It even includes the more elusive fifth taste: umami. The version at Rosa’s is one of the best I’ve ever had, including in Thailand itself, and the chef combines lime, chilli power, fish sauce and sugar in perfect quantities. Soft rice noodles, fat prawns and juicy mushrooms finish it off just perfectly.
I’d always assumed that the eponymous ‘Rosa’ was the name of the owner but actually the name came when the first restaurant was opened in the East End and signs from the previous owner were kept out of respect and because they had no money. However, over the years co-founder Chef Saiphin has been nicknamed Rosa and the name has become associated with her good and honest food. Growing up on a Mountain farm in Northern Thailand, ‘Rosa’ learnt to cook with ingredients straight from the field before moving to London. Now the challenge is to make authentic dishes and recreate family recipes using British produce as well as her own secret Thai ingredients. Pad Thai is arguably the most famous Thai dish consumed in the UK and I also got the chance to sample the version here.
As well as the crispy prawns with home-made sweet chilli sauce.
The other restaurants at the Chang Sensory Trails have serious competition as Rosa’s food is truly excellent but personally I can’t wait to try the papaya salad from Lao Cafe, the green chicken curry from Thai Tho and the Pad Thai Koong from Nipa. If you’re not based in London, there are other opportunities to attend the Chang Sensory Trails as they go on the road with events in Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh and internationally in Los Angeles and Singapore.
Come along to the Last Days of Shoreditch on the 12th of May between 12pm and 10pm with totally free entrance. You can even be in with a chance to win a pair of ticket to the VIP table and experience all eight dishes at the private Chef’s Table Dining Room.
VIP Passes will be given away on Chang’s Beer Facebook page and UK Twitter profile. For the 100th,150th, 200th, 250th and 300th person who mark as ‘attending’ on the social pages, they will be randomly selected as the lucky winner of a pair of VIP Passes.
This is a paid partnership in collaboration with Chang Beer.