Sweet Salty Spicy – But Mainly Spicy

18 05 2012

SSS is a Thai eatery that dishes up a wide variety of Thai delights in a casual setting.  As it is owned by the same operator and shares its premises with Cafe Epicurious (Rail Mall), diners get the benefit of mixing and matching their food orders between the 2 restaurants. Xinli from the the4Moose (you can view his review of SSS here) and myself were down for a tasting session about a week ago where we managed to chat with the chef/owner for a bit. Coming from a Caucasian background, we were puzzled as to why the he (who requests not to be named) would want to operate a Thai eatery and he mentioned that apart from having some friends who run reputable Thai restaurants in Sydney (Sailor’s Thai) and London (1-star Michelin restaurant Nahm), he felt that there was a major market gap in Singapore’s mid-end Thai restaurants. You can more easily find either affordable Thai eateries such as Ah Loy Thai and Nakhon Kitchen or the fine dining restaurants such as Patara Fine Thai Cuisine and Jim Thomson.

We started off the meal with the Tasting Platter, which comprised of 4 appetizers from the menu. Of the 4, 2 were note-worthy, the Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Chili Jam & Lemongrass Dressing and the SSS Crispy Rice Cakes with a Warm Chicken & Prawn Chili Dip, and are items that I would order again on future visits. The crabs are meaty and flavourful, and the chili jam was more of a curry cream sauce. The Traditional Prawn & Vegetable Rice Rolls with a sweet Tamarind Dressing & Crispy Garlic looked like sushis’ but apart from the beancurd, it was difficult to located any other flavours. “Miang” is a traditional street snack originating from Thailand and Laos, meaning “food wrapped in leaves”. How it is made is quite flexible as different types of leaves and fillings can be used. The ones offered at SSS use fillings of Prawns & Pomelo on Betal Leaves with a Palm Tamarind Dressing & Crispy Garlic. You are supposed to eat it in one mouthful but that is definitely not easy and it’s quite easy to mess up (as I did) and the dressing can end up all over your hand if you are not careful.

I would have loved to have some Thai Iced Tea, since the meal was course after course of spicy and curried dishes. Milk is one of the few drinks than can alleviate spiciness because of a compound present in it called casein. It effectively disengages capsaicin, a compound that gives off the spicy taste, from your mouth and helps to wash it away. There was no such option on the menu though so I settled for the Lemongrass Juice.

If I’m correct, the Thai name for the Spicy Chicken & Coconut Broth infused with Thai Blue Ginger, Kaffir, Lime & Lemongrass ($10++) is Tom Yum Kai. Nothing very exciting about the dish as the chicken thigh meat was rubbery though the sour tang of the tom yum was a great lead up to the mains.

The Deep Fried Silken Tofu Stuffed with Fresh Crab, Coriander & Minced Pork ($18++) is a bit overpriced to me. Eating the tofu without the accompanying thai chili sauce, you can definitely taste the fresh crab meat but the tofu might be a little bland for some. For me, I thought the milder flavours of this dish was greatly desired amidst all the pungent spices present in Thai cuisine.

Excluding any curries found in the appetizer or noodles section of the menu, there are 5 other types of curries available at SSS. For first timers who do not know which one is their appeals to their palates, I’d suggest opting for the Curry Triplets, which as the name suggests, allows diners to pick 3 of the 5 curries in small tasting portions. For Xinli and myself, we tried the Roast Duck Red Curry with Seedless Grapes & Fried Shallots, Green Curry of Baby Snapper with Apple Eggplants & Holy Basil and Jungle Curry of Scallops & Prawns with Long Green Beans & Sweet Thai Basil ($20++ inclusive of Jasmine Rice). My favourite of the 3 was the Jungle Curry because the prawns were really springy and I’m a huge fan of scallops as well. The jungle curry tasted a little like a belachan chili sauce, reminiscent of what you might find being fried with long beans at a nasi lemak stall. An interesting fact about jungle curry is that no coconut milk is normally used for this dish, as you would not expect to find coconut trees in the Thai jungles. The Green Curry was decent but slightly watered down.

I found the curry in the Chiang Mai Curried Noodle with Chicken & Mustard Greens ($12++) tasting a bit like sweet laksa gravy. It’s rather spicy on its own, but diners will also be given a dip made using sesame oil and spices which you can dip the noodles in. For some reason, the dip makes the noodles more fragrant and quells the spiciness to an optimal level. Personally, I find it a bit too rich to have it all by myself though so I would advocate sharing this.

I was really quite stuffed by now but it just felt inappropriate not to try any of SSS’s Thai desserts, so Xinli and myself shared the Black Sticky Rice with Cashews. In Singapore and Malaysia, we usually refer to this as Pulut Hitam but in Thailand, it is known as Khao niao dam. In retrospect, this was definitely too heavy a dessert so I gave up after 2 mouthfuls since it was very standard fare.

Special thanks to SSS for the kind invitation!

Sweet Salty Spicy

392/394 Upper Bukit Timah Road, The Rail Mall

Tel: +65 6877 2544





Bumbu Restaurant – Indothai that does not suck

29 04 2011

In Chinese cuisine, you have Peking Duck, Buddha Jump Over the Wall and Oyster Omelette. In Japanese, you have Sashimi, Tempura and Kobe. In French, you have Foie Gras, Duck Confit and Coq Au Vin. In German, you have Pork Knuckles, Gourmet Sausages and Beer. In Indothai, you get Mango Salad and Ngoh Hiang and a Milk Tea? It’s pathetically anti-climatic don’t you think? Hence, I used to think that Indothai food sucked. I used to think that Thai Express was probably the extent of what Indothai food could offer. Heck, I used to be so ignorant.

So for all those out there who thinks the same way as how I did in the past, I urge you to give Indothai cuisine a chance, at least till you have tried Bumbu Restaurant. It has garnered several dining awards in the past but recently, it has gone off the radar quite a bit. Perhaps it’s time that I gave everyone a gentle reminder of this little gem near Arab Street.

I simply love the Tahu Telor ($7.80++) here. The smooth beancurd is encrusted by an eggy batter which is glazed with a mellow sweet sauce. Whether eaten alone or paired with rice, it’s still freaking awesome.

Another dish worth ordering is the Beef Rendang ($10.80++). It’s only mildly spicy and if I can take it without breaking a sweat, then pretty much anyone can take it.

Impressed as I was by the first 2 dishes, I was still blown away by Pandan Chicken ($3.20/piece), which I felt was the best I have had in the short span of my life. There’s quite a bit of fat, which explains why it’s so tender but it’s worth every calorie. The pandan chicken’s surface is crisp from the frying and the chicken is marinated well. Personally, I think this is a must-order dish for every visitor.

As for their Green Curry Chicken ($8.80++), I find their curry too watered down to pack a punch.

I had high expectations of the Butter Oat Soft Shell Crab ($17.80++) but sadly, it failed to deliver. Unlike the flavourful oat prawns from good zi char places, the soft shell crab and the oats here came across as uncharacteristically bland.

Some seasonal Stir Fried Vegetables ($7.80++) for a balanced diet 🙂

You will definitely get a bang for your buck here. I paid $15, inclusive of a drink, for an awesome Indo-thai meal that few places can rival.

Bon Appetit!

BUMBU RESTAURANT

44 KANDAHAR STREET

TEL: +65 6392 8628





Ah Loy Thai – In the Running For Best Thai

6 09 2010

Last night’s dinner at Aroy Dee wasn’t able to quench MZ’s insatiable desire for good Thai food and thus begins the story of my 2nd Thai dinner in a span of 2 consecutive days. This time, it was on my recommendation to eat at Ah Loy Thai, a Thai eatery I have been dying to try after having read the countless reviews about it online.

Apparently, it has undergone some renovations recently which has resulted in a slight increment of the menu prices here but from the current prices listed on the menu, I wouldn’t have guessed that there was any increment, since everything was still incredibly cheap! As this was my first visit, I can’t really comment about the changes made during the renovations but the vibes I get from this place is that it’s a cafe with a high turnover, where the patrons are mostly employees from nearby offices who come for a quick, decent and affordable bite.

They don’t serve tap water, but it was fine with me since my default drink order when taking Thai food is the Thai Iced Tea($1.60) or calamansi juice anyway and there’s a rationale behind this and I have mentioned this before. The feeling of spiciness is caused by a chemical compound known as capsaisin. Casein, a compound found  in milk is able to bind to capsaisin on the tongue to reduce the burning irritation and the acidity from calamansi juice can also help in neutralizing capsaisin. Hope this info is helpful for people with a low threshold of spicy food!

I was impressed that when our request for ice water was denied, the manager of the establishment came over personally to apologize which I found really sincere and the gesture was much appreciated. It’s really very different from the snooty replies that I’m accustomed to get at places not serving tap water.

The Seafood Phad Thai($5.50) is what I would recommend from the Rice/Noodle category. The Phad Thai here is unique, with a taste that is a hybrid of a Fried Kuey Teow and Phad Thai which and it works marvelously! The Phad Thai was exceptionally fragrant because “hae bee” or dried shrimp is fried with the noodles. This is probably the one of the best, if not best Phad Thai I have eaten. Yum Yum!

While I did enjoy the Phad Thai the most, the Fried Glass Noodle($6) cannot be discredited either. Also fried with “hae bee”, it was equally fragrant with generous portions of seafood. Now that I think of it, maybe I preferred the Phad Thai because I started off with that first and I was super hungry.

The Pineapple Fried Rice($5.50) paled in comparison to the noodles dishes. It had chunks of chicken and seafood but the pineapple didn’t boast a distinct taste and it comes across as a bit too oily. One thing congruent about the rice and noodle dishes though is the really fresh seafood used! And I love the fresh creamy texture of just barely cooked squid. On a side note, I caught the musical Fried Rice Paradise @ the Esplanade yesterday. It’s pretty good!

The Fried Butter Calamari($6.50) here is super shioooook! The batter is light and remains crisp even till the end of the meal. The side of sliced mango is also great in toning down the rich butter sauce should it get a bit too “gelat”.

The Thai Mango Crispy Chicken($6.50) is more or less just fried chicken over some mango and maggi sauce. I probably wouldn’t order it again due to the other indulgences available on the menu.

Good food, excellent service attitudes and cheap prices, who could ask for more?

Bon Appetit!


AH LOY THAI

100 BEACH ROAD, #01-39/40 SHAW TOWER

TEL: +65 9165 1543





Aroy Dee

5 09 2010

J told me he had discovered a Thai eatery around the SMU area which served awesome Thai food at really cheap prices but he couldn’t recall the name of the place. So a list of possible eateries immediately popped into mind. Perhaps it was Yhingthai Palace, Bumbu Restaurant, Tom Yam Kungfu or Ah loy Thai? All of which were part of my supposedly comprehensive to-go list? To my surprise, it happened to be an eatery totally foreign to me – Aroy Dee at Bencoolen Street.

Aroy Dee’s menu is both comprehensive and cheap, with a range from poultry to seafood and really resembles an affordable zi char cafe. When I was here on a weekday night, the cafe was full so service was a bit sluggish.

Thai Tea($1.80) was a great way to cool down after the walk from SMU.

I didn’t feel that the Phad Thai($4 for Pork/$5 for Seafood) was deserving of J’s rave reviews, simply because it wasn’t tasty enough. Thai flavours are meant to be sharp and strong, but this was one mild tasting Phad Thai with a noodle texture which I found too dry and sticky. Thai Express does a better job. 1 good point I can say though is that they didn’t scrimp on the ingredients since I found 7 shrimps in my Phad Thai.

I’m not a fan of Tom Yam Goong($6) because I can’t really take much spicy food but this Tom Yam Soup was nothing noteworthy anyway.

Having been spoilt by the Green Curry I had at Nu Thai (Probably one of the Best Thai Restaurants in Adelaide), I found the Green Curry Chicken($6) here much too watery and the chicken meat too tough.

While the food here isn’t spectacular, at least it’s cheap right?

Bon Appetit!

AROY DEE

91 BENCOOLEN STREET, #01-12 SUNSHINE PLAZA

TEL: +65 6336 8852





Nu Thai – Best Green Curry Everrrrrrrr

7 07 2010

Spicy & Sour are not my thing, so Thai food and I have just been superficial acquiantances. To me, Singapore’s Thai Express and Lemon Grass more or less sums up Thai food, the use of big flavours found from not so extravagant ingredients that can be readily harvested in the equatorial regions of South-East Asia. You won’t ever get a Papaya Salad with Truffles or Sharks Fin Phad Thai, so Thai food has never intrigued me. It’s just Basil Chicken, Phad Thai, Curries, Salad and that’s it, or is it? 

It’s came as a surprise, never would I have imagined that my disdainful attitude towards Thai food would be altered in Adelaide.

Maybe it shouldn’t be all that surprising. After all, Nu Thai, which lies in the heart of Adelaide’s Chinatown, has won accolades in the South Australian Awards for Excellence, Best Thai Restaurant(winner for 4 years, finalist for the other 2) from 2004 to 2009 among many other awards.

The shopfront really doesn’t look like much and doesn’t strike me as an award-winning eatery but a step inside the restaurant immediately changed my view; it was packing full house that my party of 5 could only be accommodated al fresco admidst the blistering winter zephyr. Ok it wasn’t that bad, they provided heaters for us and I was 4 layers deep in clothes too!

I shall start off with the dish that made the night and changed my impression of Thai food totally. The Green Curry Chicken(AUD17.90+). Cooked with Eggplant and Basil, the curry was tantalizingly creamy with a light spice. No doubt best curry(including Chinese and Indian and other Thai ones) I have laid my tastebuds on. This wasn’t the time to be courteous, we all lapped up the curry zealously and shamelessly and all was gone in an instant.

Green Curry Chicken(AUD17.90+)

Grandma’s Crispy Pork with Spicy BBQ Sauce(AUD18.90+)  is something else you can consider ordering. The serving was generous and it was a great accompaniment to the Free-Flow Steamed Rice(AUD3.00+).

Grandma's Crispy Pork(AUD18.90+)

The Basil Chicken(AUD17.90+) is something one can easily replicate at home. Just a simple stir fry of Minced Chicken, Chili, Garlic, Thai Basil & Snake Bean.

Basil Chicken(AUD17.90+)

We though the Tofu would be the main component in the Stir-Fried Tofu with Beansprouts, Garlic, Chives and Chili(AUD11.90+) but apparently this wasn’t so. It’s more like Tao-gey fried with Tao-kwa with some Maggi Sauce.

Stir-Fried Tofu with Beansprouts, Garlic, Chives and Chili(AUD11.90+)

I didn’t like the Mixed Seasonal Vegetables(AUD11.00+) and wouldn’t have ordered this if I had known the tofu dish was actually mainly made up of vegetables already. There was a pungent putrid smell of bamboo shoots which I have yet to encounter anywhere else.

Mixed Seasonal Vegetables(AUD11.00+)

Now that I think back, clearly not every dish we had was awesome and deserving of being labelled as Best Thai food. But then again, my party was on a budget and refrained from ordering pricier dishes that I think would have provided a better representation of the food served here. Neither did we order the recommended accompanying wine for each of the dishes. Still, the green curry was really unbelievably delectable and anyone who plans to visit Adelaide must try it at least once. 

Bon Appetit!

 

 

NU THAI

117 GOUGAR STREET, ADELAIDE

TEL: 08 84102288








%d bloggers like this: