Michelin-starred chef David Thompson brings his sensational Cambodian, Vietnamese and Thai flavours to Aqua Expeditions’ Mekong river cruises
How long have you been creating menus for Aqua Expeditions?
Five years, but it’s been such a delight working with Aqua and their crew that I feel as though I’ve always done it.
Has your style of cooking changed much over that time?
I’m known for Thai food in my restaurants, but on board we like to feature local dishes.
As we’re cruising along the Mekong, that means we’re serving much more Cambodian and Vietnamese cuisine than ever before.
Which dish on the Aqua menu are you most proud of, and why?
My favourite is the Khmer green curry of river fish served with fresh rice noodles and local vegetables.
That was one of the first Cambodian dishes we put on the menu, and what makes it exceptional is the curry paste, which is highly perfumed and rich, and made mostly with lemongrass leaves.
I eat this dish for lunch every time I’m on board – it’s outstanding!
What challenges does cooking on a ship create for the chef?
In my restaurants, customers visit specifically for a Thai meal and they know what to expect. But for the passengers on a ship it’s about far more than just a single meal.
They’re there for the journey the ship provides, to experience the river and its people, to head out on excursions and, of course, to enjoy some delicious food along the way.
That means we need to be offering a comprehensive array of dishes that can please every guest throughout the day, for the entirety of their time on board.
Doing that for people from all over the world, with all their different diets and culinary preferences, is a big challenge.
Have you got any new dishes planned for Aqua Expeditions in 2019?
Yes, we’re adding banh mi (a Vietnamese baguette) to the lunch menu. It’ll be filled with pickled vegetables, shredded chicken, local pâté and fresh herbs. Delicious!
Prawns with herb salad and coconut cream
For the sauce:
– 180g palm sugar
– 250ml lime juice
– 350ml mandarin juice
– Large pinch of galangal powder
– Small pinch of mandarin powder
– Large pinch of toasted chilli powder
– 2 tbsp deep-fried garlic
– 2 to 4 tbsp fish sauce
For the herb salad:
– 120g Thai garlic, peeled and sliced
– 120g red shallots, sliced
– 60g ginger root, shredded
– 60g young (spring) ginger, shredded
– 60g green mango, shredded
– 120g pineapple, sliced
– 60g star fruit, sliced
– 120g sour leaves (roselle), chopped
– 120g Thai basil leaves
– 2 tbsp mandarin zest
–40 cleaned prawns
– 500ml coconut cream
– Dried shrimp
1. Combine the sauce ingredients and stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
2. Blanch the prawns, then combine with the sauce and salad ingredients.
3. Mix in the coconut cream and serve, sprinkled with dried shrimp.
David Thompson is the consulting chef for Aqua Expeditions on board the Aqua Mekong