Under the mango tree

By Matt Hodges ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-04-23 10:01:21

Under the mango tree

Lobster pad thai.

For dessert, why not try a warm taro dumpling with quail egg in sweet coconut milk, or water chestnut "rubies" in chilled coconut syrup? The ambience is expanded with everything from DJs playing house music to cooking tips and cocktail-making classes.

Mango Tree has adopted the same blueprint at its newly opened Washington, DC branch, where Phithaya plans to introduce the "world's greatest crabcakes" from South Carolina. The chain also works with Louis Vuitton in Hong Kong, where it has two outlets.

"It is destination dining," says managing director David MacKenzie." We like spots like we have on the river in Bangkok. We are always looking for that 'wow' factor."

"You don't just come to eat. You come to hang out and have fun with your friends," says Phithaya, adding that 70 percent of the clientele is female.

Thai food is now considered the world's No 5 cuisine, at least according to a recent poll of users of Italian is No 1 and Chinese No 4.

Dishes vary among the country's four regions, reflecting cultural influences from China, Myanmar, India and Malaysia. Thai curries are marked by their use of coconut milk and fresh ingredients rather than the powdered spices used in Indian curries.

Northern dishes are mild, those in the midlands contain more small fish and river fare, while southern dishes show Arabic influences and are sweeter with more lamb. Yet many are still garnished with garlic, sugar, fish oil or spicy chilies.

The old spice and silk routes are now in the process of being resurrected after President Xi Jinping announced his vision in 2013 to restore centuries-old land and shipping lanes from South China through Southeast Asia via East Africa to Europe.

Meanwhile, Thailand gave the green light to a $23-billion deal last summer for two highspeed rail links with China to be built by 2021, and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha endorsed the restoration of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and economic belt this February. That same month, the World Maritime News reported that a new $20-billion canal in South Thailand that China may be financing, called the Kra Canal, could be included in the plan.

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