It’s not every day that you can learn to prepare a gourmet raw Pad Thai salad from a fine dining Executive Chef who cooked for Madonna, Beyoncé and Elton John.
I was lucky to do so at the stunning resort Anantara Mai Khao in Phuket, where in an outdoor kitchen framed by tropical ponds and beautifully lush vegetation, I had a chance to cook and chat with Chef Darren Lauder, whose extensive knowledge on five star dining comes from a life of experiences in some of the most amazing luxury resorts around the globe.
Originally from Melbourne, Chef Darren has been trained in French Cuisine, but soon after leaving the motherland for his first big expat opportunity in Saudi Arabia, a big, new world of flavors and different culinary cultures opened up in front of his taste buds.
“I have always loved traveling – he tells me –, when I was seventeen and still living with my parents, I went to England for the first time and I realized that there was so much to see and discover out there. Australia is kind of isolated. Yes, we are close to Bali and Indonesia, but it’s really when I went to Europe for the first time that I got hooked to traveling”.
Like it is for most world travelers, after the first exotic experience there’s no going back. “Weird destinations are always my first choice: Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Chile, Jakarta, Japan. I love being introduced to new flavors, especially spices.
French cuisine taught me a cooking style all based on salt, pepper and garlic, but in the Middle East I discovered this incredible world of spices and fell in love with turmeric and coriander seeds, star anise and caraway seeds, which might be my favorite ingredient.
I started going to the spice market, buy bags and bags of spices and take them home to experiment with them.”
While he speaks about spices you can see his eyes light up. “There’s so much more to spice than simply using them dry – he continues –, during my travels I found out that you can roast them so they explode with flavor! I use them for marinade rubs, for seasonings, and even for salads dressings, in which I love to combine ginger and coriander seeds for a nice pop of flavor. “
I stare down at the spread of ingredients he carefully arranged for our private cooking class: pretty little bowls filled with galangal, sesame seeds, tamarind, celery leaves, ginger and green papaya, that are all going to be used for a delicious and gourmet raw Pad Thai salad.
When I told him I wanted to prepare something healthy, he made it his mission to make it happen.
Chef Darren is pretty used to accommodating health junkies and whole foods addicts – just like yours truly – who show up at the resort committed to stick to the “Anantara Balance”, their wellness concept which includes a clean eating plan that focuses on natural, organic and unrefined ingredients, served raw or steamed and prepared with less salt, sugar and unhealthy fats, and experiences such as juice cleansing, yoga, Muay Thai, therapeutic treatments, full one or multiple day programs and more.
As soon as I learned about “Balance”, I immediately signed up, but still wanted to enjoy an amazing experience like cooking with a world class chef, who luckily turned out to be one of the most open and sharing people I met. He spent a ton of time chatting with me about food, listening to my eating preferences, and taking notes on my (numerous) dietary restrictions.
My suggestion to ‘healthify’ a traditional Thai dish was immediately accepted as a fun challenge: “I like it when my customers are foodies and they are willing to take risks. They allow me to broaden my horizons, create new dishes and take my cooking to the next level”.
Gourmet Raw Pad Thai Salad it is then!! And it’s gluten free, paleo and AIP friendly as well, so make sure to pin the infographic at the bottom of this post to your Pinterest boards!
Raw Pad Thai Salad (GF, Paleo & AIP) by Chef Darren Lauder
For the Raw Pad Thai:
- 100 gr Pumpkin, finely shredded and put in ice water
- 100 gr Green Papaya, finely shredded
- 15 gr Galangal, grated (replaceable with 10 gr Ginger)
- 50 gr Purple Cabbage, finely shaved
- *50 gr Micro Greens (if on the AIP, make sure they’re from compliant vegetables: broccoli, radish)
- 30 gr Green Apple, grated
- 60 gr Banana Flower, thinly cut and put in ice water with a slice of lemon (if you can’t find fresh, it can be left out)
- 10 gr Lemon Grass, thinly sliced
- *40 gr Bean Sprouts, cleaned and put in ice water (omit if on the AIP)
- 2 Lime leaves (replaceable with lime zest)
- 80 gr Wild Rocket
- 20 gr Purple Shallots
- 10 gr Celery Leaf, washed put in ice water
For the Raw Pad Thai Dressing
- 10 gr Tamarind paste
- 10 gr Palm sugar
- 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- *80 gr Cashew Nuts, soaked for about 1 hour (if on the AIP replace with Coconut Cream)
- 70 gr Longan Fruit (replaceable with fresh mango)
- 5 gr Garlic, crushed to a paste
- *1-2 Red chili (avoid if on the AIP)
- *5 gr Raw Sesame seeds (avoid if on the AIP)
- Shred pumpkin and green papaya in long strips with a julienne peeler or a spiralizer.
- Clean and cut all the other salad ingredients and place them in iced water to allow them to crisp up and bring out the fresh crunchy taste.
- Combine all the salad ingredients in a mixing bowl and start preparing the dressing.
- To prepare the dressing, combine the cashews in a high speed blender or a grinder with a little water until pureed.
- Combine the pureed cashews with all the other dressing ingredients. According to your taste, you can play around on how sweet, sour or spicy you like it. Keep in mind that when you add the dressing to the salad it’s going to have a stronger flavor because the raw veggies can absorb more of the dressing.
- Season your raw Pad Thai with the dressing and enjoy!!
This amazing Raw Pad Thai is just one of the wonderful healthy dishes that I was lucky to prepare during my wonderful time at Anantara Mai Khao in Phuket, and I can’t wait to share with you the recipes to make raw veggie spring rolls and sea bass wrapped in banana leaf that, as always, are allergy free and perfectly healthy. So stay tuned for those!
As Chef Darren told me while we were cooking: “Even if you face challenges and have dietary restrictions, food doesn’t need to be boring. Think outside the box, and look for local products that are in season right now: that’s the main key to preparing a flavorful wholesome meal!”