Not flushed yet: Rumours circle Game of Thrones’ Tywin Lannister

Delightful: David Thompson examines the origins of pad Thai in his series, Thai Street Food.In the next season of Game of Thrones, Cersei Lannister will be nude, Tywin Lannister will be dead, and Bran Stark will be unseen. That’s three rumours disposed of, five months before the season is due to start in Australia.

Filming for major scenes in season five of Game of Thrones began three weeks ago in Spain, which is appearing as the kingdom of Dorne. About 86,000 Spaniards applied for jobs as extras in a battle scene that required a cast of 600, some of them giving up well-paid jobs to travel to Seville and beg the producers. Every one of the wannabes seems then to have generated a plot rumour, causing the producers to issue a series of denials.

One rumour was that the much-anticipated nude scene by Lena Headey, who was the only significant actress under 40 not to have taken her clothes off so far, had been blocked by authorities in Croatia. In fact, after a church in Dubrovnik expressed reservations about it, the producers moved filming to a less religious location, and it was completed in August. It is not, however, a sex scene, but a “walk of shame” in which Cersei has her hair cropped and is partly covered with mud and blood.

Then there’s the mischievous rumour started by Charles Dance, who plays the patriarch of the evil Lannister family. At the end of season four, his son, Tyrion, fired two crossbow bolts into him. Dance told a British interviewer recently: “I’m not completely missing out on the next series … You haven’t seen the last of Tywin Lannister is all I’ll say.” The producers have suggested that any Tywin sightings are likely to be in flashbacks or funeral scenes.

But it seems we won’t even see flashbacks of Bran Stark, son of the only decent political leader from season one, who survived all sorts of attacks to reach his destination in the far north at the end of season four, and looked like being a guaranteed prospect for more adventures in season five. Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who plays him, and Kristian Nairn, who plays his protector, Hodor, have complained that they have not received any scripts or been called to the set.

Nairn revealed too much to the ABC’s 7.30 program when he visited Australia recently:  “We [Hodor and Bran] have a season off and we have a year’s hiatus, solely because I imagine our storyline is up to the end of the books.” Or possibly because the producers decided they were juggling far too many plot lines. This column will keep you up to date on all Game of Thrones rumours as they come to hand.

Top Aussie foodie eyes up pad Thai

This country’s national dish has not been the meat pie for decades. In the past 20 years, the single dish most consumed by Australians has been spaghetti bolognese, a version of pasta and meat sauce unrecognisable to people from Bologna, but evidence is growing that in the past five years spag bol has been replaced in Australia’s affections by a dish called pad Thai, a mixture of rice noodles, egg, vegetables and chilli, which we buy in takeaway cartons and gobble in front of the television.

If pad Thai is our national dish, it’s appropriate that the world’s most famous Thai chef should be an Australian – David Thompson, who runs Nahm restaurant in Bangkok, judged this year the the top restaurant in Asia and No. 13 in the world in the San Pellegrino listings. On Thursday, in his delightful SBS series Thai Street Food, Thompson examines the origins of pad Thai.

Thompson rose to fame running Darley Street Thai and Sailor’s Thai in Sydney, then went to London and opened Nahm in 2001. He got his first Michelin star within six months of opening, but he’s such a perfectionist that he closed the London Nahm in 2012 because he kept having trouble finding the ingredients he needed. Now he concentrates on perfecting the Bangkok Nahm, which is a very upmarket experience.

Thompson admits he used to be snobbish about pad Thai, and could not deny the rumour that if anybody asked for pad Thai in London, they would be asked to leave his restaurant. His study of street food has mellowed him.

“I’ve become much softer, much tenderer, and if it was a kid under 16, of course we do a pad Thai if we’ve got the wherewithal,” he told me. “Nahm in London and here [in Bangkok] is quite a different beast from the easy casual street food that pad Thai stems from. It’s a bit too popular for my liking, but I’m an arcane beast.

“As I’m getting older, I’m dropping the preciousness of fine dining. There’s an ease and a delight in that type of food. Now that I’m living here, we don’t cook at home. We go out and we might have some sort of stir-fry noodles or noodle soup or any of the multitude of dishes that are just on the streets ready at hand, delicious and affordable.”

In the series, Thompson chats to street cooks and customers about their attitudes and mixes that with serious historical research. Foodies will be shocked to learn that pad Thai has no ancient heritage. It’s a recent adaption of a Chinese dish that first appeared in the 1940s.

“Even though it’s considered to be a classic of the Thai canon, it was developed in the late ’30s and early ’40s, on the orders of a guy called Field Marshal Phibun,” Thompson said. “This dictator issued many cultural mandates where Thais had to change their traditional customs and present themselves in a Western way – what he called a more civilised way.

“Among those mandates was one requiring a national dish that should be nutritious, frugal and easy to make. A competition was launched around schools and various organisations. Not surprisingly – and it still works like this in Thailand – the wife of a government minister won the competition.

“It was normal Chinese noodles, stir-fried with egg, bean sprouts, bean curd, Chinese chives and dried prawns, all of which you see as the basis of so many traditional Chinese dishes in south-east Asia. What they added to make it different was some tamarind water and some palm sugar. It was something that echoed the rather nationalistic zeitgeist and met the demands of the dictator, but was also quite delicious.

“It then became gentrified with the addition of fresh prawns or other expensive ingredients, and in the [United] States I’ve seen it stir-fried with green beans and pork and even tomato sauce, but here in Thailand it is still eaten in roughly the same way.”

I ventured the opinion that Australia’s national dish was a version of pad Thai with chicken or sometimes duck. Thompson was not amused: “David, if you tell me you serve pad Thai with chicken in your house, that’s when I would have to hang up in disgust. You could do stir-fried noodles with chicken, but that’s a different dish. A chook is not part of a pad Thai.”

You have been warned.

Thai Street Food airs on Thursday, November 6, 6pm, SBS One.

Carping and beefing 

You know, of course, that the ABC is a communist conspiracy, which uses a facade of quality journalism to brainwash viewers into hating politicians and capitalists. Now it seems that SBS is a vegan conspiracy, using a facade of foodie programming (see our top 10 chart across the top of this page) to cloak its secret agenda of terrifying viewers about animal-based protein.

On Thursday nights it’s running a series called What’s the Catch?, in which Matthew Evans reveals how much of the seafood Australians eat comes from endangered species or polluted waterways.

On November 3, SBS will start making us feel equally bad about eating meat, when British gastronome Michael Mosley looks at farming practices that kill 65 billion animals a year, mostly in ways most people would consider cruel, and eating habits that massively increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Mosley concludes that the biggest health risks come from processed meats such as bacon, but you may find the weight of evidence is enough to drive you away from spag bol and towards pad Thai, without the chicken, of course.

Michael Mosley: Should I Eat Meat? airs on Monday, November 3, 7.30pm, SBS One.

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