Cruise Cuisine: David Thompson interview & recipe

Author: Josh Stephenson

Published on:

Updated on:

Michelin-starred chef David Thompson brings his sensational Cambodian, Vietnamese and Thai flavours to Aqua Expeditions’ Mekong river cruises

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

Serves 10

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

To finish:

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