Lean Cuisine

By John Leicester
Posted Monday, August 15, 2005

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Thailand's burgeoning spa industry is turning to the freshness and vitality of Thai cooking to create tasty, trend-setting spa cuisine.

The old image of 'spa-rtan' cuisine -- two lettuce leaves and a carrot on a plate -- continues to haunt the spa industry. But in today's reality, chefs in Thai spa resorts are raiding the abundant garden of Thailand for its tremendous variety of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit to create tasty, innovative food that would not be out of place in gourmet restaurants.

Just look at the big picture. Thai food is one of the world's best-loved cuisines; Thai spas are Asia's trendsetter in quality, service and variety of treatments. Now that healthy food is taking off in Thailand's top residential and resort spas, guests can expect something really special.

For those still reluctant to try the food spas offer, spa cuisine guru Andrew Jacka of Horwath Spa Consulting debunks some of the myths: "It's not vegetarian food as we utilise lots of fish and lean meat. However, spa cuisine tends to incorporate more vegetables to balance the leaner protein used."

"And we're not serving up bland hospital food! The creativity of the chef makes spa cuisine come alive with flavourful blends of meat/fish, vegetables and herbs."

So What Is Spa Cuisine?

Spa cuisine is healthy, nutritious food that enhances the spa experience.

Spa cuisine involves a simple, healthy style of cooking that encompasses three fundamentals, explains Horwath's Jacka: reduced fat, reduced salt and reduced sugar.

Spa Cuisine is all about selecting the freshest organic ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables, to enhance the flavour of our meals, and substituting unhealthy products, such as artificial flavouring and flavour enhancers like MSG, soda and food colours, with healthier and nutritious alternatives, such as extra virgin olive oil instead of fat, sweet apple juice in place of sugar, sea salt for the processed variety. Herbs are selected not just for their flavour, but their medicinal properties as well.

Food preparation is equally important. Deep frying, frying with fat and the use of microwave ovens are no-nos. The emphasis is on baking, grilling, steaming, and boiling.

With such broad guidelines, it's not surprising that in Thailand's rapidly expanding and ever inventive spa industry, its chefs have their own fascinating interpretations of what constitutes 'spa cuisine'.

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