David Thompson is the Australian chef who showed the locals how to cook the best Thai food in Thailand. He was awarded the first ever Michelin star for a Southeast Asian restaurant and in 2014 his Bangkok restaurant Nahm was named the best restaurant in Asia (and the 13th best in the world).

That same year Thompson was selected by the founder of boutique cruise line Aqua Expeditions to act as executive ship for its first Asian ship, Aqua Mekong. He designed exclusive menus for the ship that encompassed the culinary traditions of the Mekong with fresh local ingredients purchased en route at the markets of Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

This year Thompson will be hosting six cruises aboard Aqua Mekong, ranging from three- to seven-nights. The 40 passengers onboard will have the opportunity to tour local markets with Thompson, attend a cooking class or kitchen tour, and find out more about his food philosophy at a Q&A session.

On the Amazon River, sister ship Aqua Amazon will undertake four similar journeys hosted by consulting chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino. He is the chef and owner of one of Lima’s most innovative restaurants, Malabar, and fuses Peruvian ingredients with traditional techniques.

The hosted Aqua Mekong tours depart on April 22, April 26, May 13 and May 17, with prices starting from US$3,660 per person. The Aqua Amazon tours depart on March 29, November 26 and November 29 and are priced from US$3,330 per person.

Can’t get on one of David Thompson’s cruises? You can make one of his signature dishes, served on Aqua Mekong, at home.



Makes 10 leaves, enough for 2 or 3 people.



Pinch of salt

1 coriander root

1 tablespoon fresh ginger

1 tablespoon coarsely ground peanuts

1 tablespoon toasted shredded coconut

Pinch of Thai shrimp paste

Good pinch of ground dried prawns



½ cup palm sugar

100ml water

1 tablespoon toasted coconut

1 tablespoon small toasted peanuts

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons tamarind water



2 tablespoons prepared miang sauce

1 tablespoon roasted grated coconut

Pinch of finely diced lime

1 tablespoon diced young ginger

2 tablespoons diced red shallots

Handful of coriander leaves

½ finely sliced scud

10 prawns, peeled, blanched then sliced

10 pieces pomelo flesh

10 cleaned ‘betel’ leaves


First, make the paste: gradually pound the paste ingredients together using a pestle and mortar, adding one by one, until quite smooth.

For the sauce, heat sugar with water. When dissolved, simmer for a minute or so before adding the paste and simmering until the sauce is quite thick and the fragrances of ginger, galangal and shrimp paste are evident. Make sure that you do not simmer it for too long – only a few minutes or so!

Now add the fish sauce, the shredded Thai coconut and ground peanuts, and simmer for a minute. Then add the tamarind water but do not simmer for too long after the tamarind has been added or it will scorch. Remove from the heat. When cooled a little, check the seasoning: it should taste sweet, rich, sour and salty.

At the very last moment, combine the remaining Miang ingredients (prawns, pomelo etc.) into the sauce and serve on the ‘betel’ leaves.

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