Friday, June 29, 2007

After Work

While making a suit at a local tailor, one of the staff recommended this Thai restauarant near-by for lunch. Being already 2pm and the fact that we were hungry, we scrabbled in, placed our orders and waited.

Minutes later, the first dish to arrive was the Rice Crackers with Minced Pork Dip (65 Bhat). While the dip looked fiery and the layer of volcanic red oil was intimidating to some, it turned out to be, as you might have guessed by now, sweet. Bits of minced pork provided some texture while the slight coconut fragrance permeated the sauce. The rice crackers came in small round discs which looked cute and was easier to handle compared to their bigger, square counterparts.

Pad Thai (45 Bhat) here was a little more moist compared to the rest I've tried. Think of moist as in moist char kway teow. Yum. I still can't take to the taste of raw bean sprouts but I think the locals here like it. Fortunately, the raw bean sprouts were placed nicely aside.

The Tom Yum Goong (100 Baht) had a very 'fresh-bursting' taste and the small shards of leaves and herbs certainly made their presence felt. But I felt the soup was a tad too sour for my liking. Average prawns aside, what I did enjoy was the fresh mushrooms that were added. I'm not a big fan of canned straw mushrooms but the fresh ones in this pot were delicious. No briny aftertaste. Instead they were earthy and naturally sweet (not sweet in the sugar sense).

This dish was actually a mistake. We thought it was stir-fried prawns with chilli but it turned out to be Fried Rice with Prawns and Chilli (45 Bhat). Communication can be quite a problem when they don't speak English and we don't speak Thai. But hungry people were not about to let a dish leave the table.

The fried rice had a spicy kick. Sort of like a chilli padi (small red chilli which is known for its fiery hotness) kind of kick. Thankfully the slices of cucumbers at the side came in handy. The prawns were few and generally hiding in the mound of rice. A fried egg was tasty companion.

A few hawkers had stalls outside this restaurant and you may order from them and eat in the restaurant together with the rest of your food.

Now back to the tailor and I hope the measurements are not affected.

After Work
57-57/1 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Pathumwan

Chew On This: After Work has live bands playing on certain nights.

Note: S$1 = 23 Baht

Monday, June 25, 2007

Siam Paragon Food Court

Ask me if I prefer to eat at a hawker centre or a food court and I'm definitely picking the former over the air-conditioned latter. Yes, hawker centres could be relatively dirtier, warmer and smokier than food courts but at least their food tastes much better and is cheaper too. I find food courts lacking in variety and the food that is dished up there seems to have muted flavours. And who can forget the 'food court' smell that clings to one's hair and clothes after a meal there? Not that I wouldn't eat at a food court but I'm not an advocate.

But having tried food from restaurants as well as road side stalls, I thought it would be a good idea to check out the food court here in Bangkok. The one I checked out was at Siam Paragon. This mall is huge and reminds me slightly of Ngee Ann City here in Singapore. Big name boutiques, including a Jimmy Choo, and big department stores entice already tired legs of tourists. I was surprised to see shop units taken up by BMW, Lotus and Lamborghini and used as show rooms complete with the cars themselves.

On the food front, the basement had all sorts of foods from local salads to sandwiches, bakeries, dim sum, sashimi and even kaya toast. Snacks ranging from popular Thai desserts to cakes to donuts and other tidbits seem to shout out at every turn and one can really expect severe caloric damage. Throw that diet out of the window.

I chanced upon this stall selling fried goodies. Yes, almost everything fried is a goodie. Sticks of sweet potato, yam and slices of banana are coated in a light batter, deep fried to a golden glow and sweetened with sugar. The banana slices were fragrant and really sweet with a slight mushy centre. The sweet potato sticks were firmer but also equally delicious. The yam sticks were less sweet and more starchy but I like that it seemed to balance out the sweetness of the sugar nicely. Each type sells for 20 Baht which gives you eight pieces.

Fishball Noodles here are very different from the Singapore version. Here, the fishballs are oval-shaped and less bouncy. Long white strips turned out to be actually fishcake, sliced into strips. The soup stock tasted sweet. Condiments like fish sauce, coriander and chilli flakes made it more Thai. I'm not used to eating sweet fishball beehoon I guess.

The Beef Noodles Soup had a very light broth with a slightly beefy taste. I liked the pieces of stewed beef which was so tender that its strands broke up with a gentle grip of the chopsticks. The beef balls (not the same as cow's testicles I assure you) had a good bite and could beat many of its counterparts in Singapore. Also included were strips of beef tripe as I had ordered the 'mixed' option which provided a bit of everything.

By now, Pad Thai has become one of my favourite foods here in Thailand. It could also be one of the most consistent foods here. Almost every Pad Thai that I've tried seemed to be delicious. And the one here at Siam Paragon food court was no exception.

The food at the food court here costs about 50 Baht per dish on average.

Siam Paragon Food Hall
991/1 Rama 1 Road
(Drop off at BTS Siam Station)

Chew On This: Don't pass Baht to the individual stalls, instead buy a stored value card from the counter and use this to make payments for your meals at the food court. The remaining value is fully refundable.

Note: S$1 = 23 Baht

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Tourist's Supper

The delay in posting was due to internet connection problems as well as the fact that I had tripped over my laptop's wire, causing it to fall onto the floor. Eek! Fortunately, the Toshiba's tough and my data seems alright... for now. But now on to finishing up a few more of my Thailand posts. And for those who are wondering... Yes, I'm back.

The search for a supper place brought us to Somboon Restaurant, just about a 10 minute stroll from the Emerald Hotel at where I stayed. The hotel concierge recommended it as 'popular with tourists for seafood'. Even though it sounded as dangerous as Newton Circus would be for a tourist, my stomach over-ruled both the head and heart. And so I took the bait.

But I didn't know that the bait came in the form of Fried Curry Crab. This is purportedly the restaurant chain's signature dish. Lots of live seafood were on display just at the entrance of the restaurant so their claim to actually cook live seafood could be true as the crab was very fresh. Unfortunately, the sauce that smothered it was more sweet than spicy. I also didn't seem to detect any curry flavour.

This is the main reason why I don't rank Thai food as one of my favourites. I prefer savoury to food with a sweet tinge. Now don't ask me about macaroons. I can't explain that either.

The Grilled Fish had a distinct freshwater taste and I was rather surprised that it wasn't covered in any strong-tasting sauce. The fish was meaty but there's no point of having all that meat when it's bland eh? I could imagine some ground chilli paste(hot, not sweet) being stuffed into its belly before cooking. After which, a sprinkle of salt and a good squeeze of a Thai lime would do the trick nicely.

It seems that there's no escaping Tom Yum Goong here in Bangkok. The version here was relatively spicy and I liked the sourish tang. The crunchy prawns swimming in the soup were halved and still had their shells attached. Maybe that's why it seemed tastier.

The 'Favourite Dish of the Night' award went to this dish of Grilled Prawns with Glass Noodles. The glass noodles (think tanghoon) had absorbed the flavours of the prawns, garlic and Szechuan peppercorns beautifully. Soft, slightly transparent and chewy, this was clearly the star of the night.

I forgot the prices of the dishes but the total for the above mentioned dishes including rice for five people came to 1,532 Baht. Looks like I need another Gingko power boost.

Somboon Restaurant (Ratchada Branch)
167/9-12 Ratchadapisek Road
(Adjacent Huay Kwang MRT station exit 3)
Tel: 0-2692-6850
Open: 4pm - 11.30pm

Chew On This: Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has also dined here.

Note: S$1 = 23 Bhat

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Yaowarat- The Sequel

As with good movies, there is a sequel. And as with good food, there is a return. I couldn't imagine flying back to Singapore without eating the Fish Maw in Claypot at Yaowarat again.

But since I would brave the (horrible) traffic jam to get that Fish Maw in Claypot, I might as well also order some other dishes that have managed to evade me the last time. When in doubt, follow your nose. This advice led me to a stall directly across the road from the one where I had my fish maw affair.

It was noisy and lively with orders being shouted across and loud invitations for potential customers to take a seat and try their food. The sight of large prawns was alluring, the sizzle on the grill made for melodious symphony while the smell was irresistible. I had to get my hands, and teeth, on them Grilled Prawns (300 Baht for Large).

The flesh was chunky but a tad dry. I suppose that's the downside of big-sized prawns. It was fresh but I suspect smaller prawns would give a more succulent flesh.

The Grilled Squid (200 Baht for Large) was honestly average but I like the fact that it was minimally seasoned. Most of the grilled items here seemed to be.

The Crab (forgot the price) was simply barbecued. Its meat was fresh and firm but the sight of mud on some parts of the crab's exterior was a turn-off. I dare only put my lips on the flesh for fear of literally eating dirt.

Thailand is also well-known for Bird's Nest (150 Baht) and this would be bowl number two for me. While the one I had the other time had a 'raw' taste which I did not take to, this one here had a better taste. Not that Bird's Nest itself had much of a taste, but I'm talking about the liquid in which it was cooked in. It was sweeter and had a slight pandan flavour. The strands of Bird's Nest were indeed very generous.

The other dessert was Gingko Nuts (100 Baht). The ones here were soft on the outside but firm inside with a pleasant bitterness. Once again, the Thais are not stingy with their Gingkos. Woot! I feel the surge in brain power already.

And if your memory is good. I actually came back for the Fish Maw and Fried Mee Sua which I did order but have decided not to feature them in this post as they were from the same stall which I have earlier posted on. Just order it here at the seafood stall and the guys will get your Fish Maw order across the street using hand signals. Rather amusing to watch.

This stall sits smack at the sign 'China Town'. It's just across the main road from the Fish Maw stall that I had previously blogged about.

Chew On This: Apparently this stalls claims to be the first stall to set up in Yaowarat. Believe it or not.

Note: S$1 = 23 Baht

Monday, June 11, 2007

Thai-looking Food at Last

Finally, now to my first 'proper' Thai meal in Bangkok. This restaurant is in Siam Jusco, a small mall in the Rachadapisek area where I stayed. Nothing fancy just a simple place with air-conditioning.

Tom Yum Goong (150 Baht) came in a metal steamboat pot with the expected prawns. I liked the fact that they used fresh straw mushrooms instead of the canned ones. The spicy-sourish Tom Yum soup was flavourful with powerful nuances of lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal.

The Green Curry with Chicken (80 Baht) was a tad sweet. Spicy? Zilch. The chicken pieces were sufficiently tender. But I'm no fan of green curry due to its herby, grassy taste.

This dish of Grilled Cuttlefish (more like squid I think) (120 Baht) was outstanding. Two large squids were grilled and sliced. Due to the thickness of the squid, each bite was substantial and slightly chewy. Taste wise, it was fresh and because it was not subjected to heavy seasoning, the subtle taste of squid abound. I also liked the slightly charred bits on its skin. Oh and the squid roe was a bonus.

The Thai Fried Noodles with Shrimp (60 Baht) or more commonly known as Pad Thai was thin kway teow (rice noodles) stir-fried with chilli powder, shrimps, palm sugar, fish sauce and tamarind to create a dish that hit me with saltiness, than a sour tinge and followed by a slightly sweet end that had the gentle spicy touch. Beansprouts and ground peanuts added more crunch. I absolutely fell in love with the Thai lime. Squeeze halve of it onto the Pad Thai and it imparts an aromatic sourness. Smell your fingers after that and you'll never want to wash your hands, at least for the day. Anyone works in CK's fragrance labs? Hello?!

This is another dish favoured my Singaporeans- Deep Fried Shrimp Moouse Patties (80 Baht). Rice crackers were fried till crisp but the accompanying sauce was way too sweet for my liking.

For the sake of fibres, we ordered Fried Asparagus with Oyster Sauce (70 Baht). The woody sticks were succulent and stir-fried with just garlic and oyster sauce, made good company for a steaming bowl of rice.

Then there was this one dish that caught my sister's attention on the menu. It was simply out of curiosity that we decided to order the Sauteed Morning Glory with Oyster Sauce (60 Baht). Morning Glory... Hmm. I remember it to be a creeper with purple flowers that resemble small trumpets. I really did not know what to expect or how that creeper would taste like.

When it had arrived, the family let out a loud 'chey', much to the amusement of the other diners around. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Sauteed Morning Glory with Oyster Sauce!

The Morning Glory turned out to be the humble Kang Kong which EVERY Singaporean would have eaten before. Oh well. It was worth the shot I guess.

Once again, everything was in Thai. So hopefully this shot of their business card for the address will be helpful.

Chew On This: Pepsi is still served in good ol' glass bottles that are so rare in Singapore, where plastic is king when it comes to bottles. Another thing, ice is chargeable (15 Baht) here in this restaurant and it seems to be the common practice here in Bangkok. How fortunate are we.

Note: S$1 = approx. 22.3 Baht

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Pot Worth Sailing For

Aye! What? Still no Tom Yum? Hold your horses for what I'm about to blog about far beats any Tom Yum that have slid down me throat.

Beyond the exotic clout of lemon grass, chillis, galangal, Thai basil, fish sauce and kaffir limes, there lies a treasure that few know of. The secret map points to Yaowarat or known as Chinatown to civilisation. Most greedy mates get blinded and lured by the more famous Tom Yum Goong, Pad Thai and Green Curry but these are mere distractions I say.

A late weekday night saw me navigate to Yaowarat for dinner. Dark and dingy buildings lined the area with most shops closed. But them hawkers along the roads are a bustling bunch. Brightly-lit stalls and the furious clanking of metal on wok adds some life to the otherwise ghost town. How could me not be tempted as the smell of barbecued crustaceans drifted in the air.

The fish is a good thing to eat. But cross me heart with me dagger, the fish maw is much better.

In fact, I would sail to world's end, brave the cursed storms and sell me Black Pearl for a hot claypot of the Fish Maw (100 Baht) here. Generous pieces of fish maw with fresh crab meat and Chinese Mushrooms all in a gorgeous pipping hot liquid.

Spongy and slightly chewy, the fish maw made me mad. Mad enough to order another claypot of it. Now, don't forget to add a good dash of black rum vinegar which immediately transforms this dish from excellent to heavenly.

For those with a tongue for shark's fin, there is also Shark's Fin in claypot (300 Baht). Topped with those disgustingly raw bean sprouts, one can actually sift through the gooey sauce and discover pieces of shark's fin, not the pathetic damned strands.

Aye, but I find no joy in eating shark's fin. Fish Maw still rocks and is more worth your gold too.

Keep some space for the Fried Mee Sua (Rice Vermicelli) (100 Baht) too. A tad oily but with a distinct wok hei that reaches me nostrils, this makes good eating. Pieces of chicken, prawns, crab meat and Chinese mushrooms each flavour the otherwise bland mee suah and the dusting of white pepper adds a kick. Mr. Gibbs better start serving this on board me ship or it's in the cannon he'll be. Mark me words.

Dessert here was in the form of Bird's Nest (100 Baht) and Gingko Nuts (100 Baht). Walk me on the plank and I'll still say I didn't like the Bird's Nest. It had a raw taste which I found rather off-putting. It's saliva after all, fellas.

The Gingko Nuts were aplenty but like the Bird's Nest, there wasn't much taste to it except for a faint bitterness of the nut. The accompanying syrup was sweet but that was all. Maybe only Jack the monkey and his feathery friend would fight for this.

Enough for now. I need to get back to sea lest the bunch of brainless crew leave without me again. Ahoy!

Because of my deficiency in Thai, I can't read the names of the stalls but the pictures should be helpful. These two stalls are just outside Soo Seng Heng Goldsmith, at the junction of Thanon Phadung Dao. Think they could be open only from the evening onwards.

Chew On This: Most people in Yaowarat can speak Teochew so if Thai is beyond you and English seems to add to confusion, this dialect is your best bet.

Note: S$1 = approx. 22.3 Baht

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

MK Steamboat

The first meal I ate upon reaching Bangkok was not the expected Tom Yum or Green Curry. It turned out to be the I-did-not-even-dream-of-eating-this-here steamboat.

Granted, MK is an established steamboat restaurant chain in Thailand with outlets in almost every mall. During my visit there, I discovered that the locals actually frequent MK for family dinners and birthday celebrations. It's casual and comfortable.

Choosing to skip the dim sum and roasted duck and pork belly (strange for a Thai steamboat restaurant), we went straight for the steamboat. I had a quick slurp of the stock just as it came to a boil, before any ingredients were added. It was too sweet for my liking. Natural sweetness that comes from carrots, cabbage etc, I can understand. But when sugar comes into the question, I cringe.

But eat we must (after that horrid lunch on board) and so ordered a Mushroom Set (159 Baht) and a Sliced Beef Set (152 Baht). I enjoyed the variety of mushrooms that came with the set. The sliced pieces of beef was nothing bad but neither was it fantastic.

The Fresh Shrimps (56 Baht) were small but sweet. Almost as if they were caught in a near-by river. But it had that lai sui (alkaline water) treatment to give it a crunch. The Shrimp Wantons (53 Baht) were pretty good too. Crisp Squids (31 Baht) turned out to be cured cuttlefish and Fresh Squid (31 Baht) was the ordinary erm... sotong.

For vegetables, we had Chinese Cabbage (15 Baht) and Pak Wan Ban (21 Baht). I have never seen or heard of Pak Wan Ban, much less eaten it. It had small thorns and was like a softer Kang Kong with thinner leaves and stems, leaving a slight bitter after taste.

And for something labelled as Japanese Tofu (27 Baht), I don't know how Japanese it was but it tasted like regular tofu.

At the end, I was more happy that my thirst was quenched. Bangkok is indeed hot, humid and dusty. So it was a great reprieve when I had my first sip of this cold tea that MK served. It had this pandan aroma and was slightly sweet-smelling but it had none of that sugar-laden stuff found in bottles of green tea. Chilled, subtly sweet and fragrant, I chucked down glass after glass. This is one for the road!

MK Steamboat Restaurant
139 Ratchadapisek Road, Dindaeng, Bangkok 10400.

Chew On This: At a certain time, loud booming music blasted from the restaurant's speakers and just when I thought some para-para-crazy terrorist had hijacked the restaurant, the MK waitresses aligned themselves and did a dance with wooden noise-clappers in their hands (instead of getting me another bowl of rice). Totally surprised.

Note: S$1 = approx. 22.3 Baht

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Lunch On Board Thai Airways

The words 'aeroplane food' may seem to cause most people to stick out their tongues in disgust but I actually like food served on board the plane. Actually, I even look forward to them.

So imagine my delight when I found out that I was going to have lunch on board Thai Airways on my flight to Bangkok.

I was leaning forward to make out what the stewardess was rambling out to the passengers three rows before me. "Chicken or lamb?" I heard. Easy choice I thought and had the word 'chicken' on the edge of my lips. But by the time it came to my turn, it became 'lamb or lamb'. Apparently, chicken had already ran out.

The lamb was surprisingly tender and even though there was the lambness, it was not overpoweringly scary. The fried rice was edible but don't expect any of that wok hei (smokey flavour imparted by the hot wok).

The most outstanding item for me was the starter of smoked salmon with capers and lettuce. Eaten with the bread roll, it made for a tasty little sandwich.

The desserts failed horribly though. It was some sort of custard with unidentifiable yellow strands on top. Too sweet. Too rich. Too jelak (cloying). I would have preferred fresh fruits.

Luckily, Bangkok (and better food) was a mere 2 hours away.

Thai Airways

Chew On This: From what I can remember, most airlines usually offer two choices for mains, one Asian and the other Western. But both of the meals (chicken and lamb) offered on board this flight were Asian. Hmmm...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Virgin Makankakis Dinner

After months of procrastination, I finally signed up for Makansutra's makankakis dinner for the month of May at the invitation of Sam and June.

Dinner was organised by Andrew (good job!) at Whampoa Food Street (Keng) Fish Head Steamboat Eating House's new Rangoon Road Branch. And about 50 people attended. Really no joke. I didn't get to know all 50 of the people there but I at least made new friends with the other nine people at my table. :)

Dinner that evening had nine courses ($30/person). The first course to start the ball rolling was the Hae Cho with "Golden Sand" Crispy Beancurd. A big plate with pieces of fried beancurd, fried Hae Cho (Prawn & Pork Roll) and thankfuly, non-fried jellyfish.

The Hae Cho was delicious with its roughly minced pork and bits of prawns and chestnuts giving it a chunky bite. It was comforting to note that the Ngoh Hiang skin used to wrap the Hae Cho was tasty without being too salty. That meant people at the restaurant had actually bothered to wipe down the skin with a damp cloth.

A bite into the "Golden Sand" Crispy Beancurd revealed a silky soft interior encased in a crispy skin. The "Golden Sand" probably referred to the savoury crispy bits on the beancurd.

I didn't taste the jellyfish as I was busy adjusting camera settings and snapping away but it should be good as all that remained of it was the lettuce leaf on which the mound of jellyfish sat.

Next up was the Batang Fish Steamboat which had charcoal heating the metal pot. The smell of burning charcoal was all inviting and tempting. I really like Batang fish, which is also known as Spanish Mackeral, for its slightly oily, soft yet firm white flesh. The amount of Batang fish slices was generous and the fish was fresh.

Tastewise, I didn't like the salty coat on the surface of the fish. In fact the soup stock with all the Tang-O, ginger, long cabbage and seaweed, while tasty, was also too salty for my taste. I would have preferred something more cheng (light).

This is my favourite dish of the night. The Salted Egg Yolk Prawns had prawns coated with salted egg yolk and fried with chilli and curry leaves. The salted egg yolk gave it a savoury, salty (duh!) taste while the chilli and curry leaves imparted a spicy aromatic lift. Fantastic!

When I saw the name of this dish on the menu, I hadn't the slightest thing of what to expect. Four Treasures in Nonya Sauce was kinda mind-boggling. The four treasures turned out to be scallops, prawns, sea cucumber and cured cuttlefish. These 'treasures' were then slathered in a sauce that tasted like laksa to me. There was a coconut milk richness to it and the farmilar taste of laksa leaves. Quite unusual and interesting.

The Claypot Chicken Indonesian Style was disappointing. Yes, it came in a claypot (the above pic was taken off my plate) but each chicken piece had an uninviting thick slimey coating which didn't taste exactly nice. CJ quipped that he wasn't even sure which part of this dish made it 'Indonesian'. I couldn't agree more.

Braised Pork Ribs also came in a claypot which at that time gave me negative vibes. The meat was really fall-off-the-bone tender and had hints of garlic but the meat was relatively bland. The marinate and sauce somehow had not penetrated the meat. A pity.

The Deep Fried Venison with Minced Garlic and Hae Bee (dried shrimp) fared a just a bit better with the bits of Hae Bee adding a different dimension of flavour. Although I still remain sceptical whenever the word 'venison' pops up on a menu.

This dish made most already full people sit up. The sight of two fairly large crabs seemed like a welcome reprieve after all the meat. The Baked Crabs in Superior Stock were fresh but could be a little more meaty. I would have personally preferred chilli crabs or pepper crabs.

Eight courses of meat and seafood needed a vegetable component (No, sea cucumber does not count.) This was in the form of Asparagus in XO Sauce. The thick asparagus was a bit fibrous, indicative that the asparagus was most likely to be too old. The XO sauce was the Lee Kum Kee kind with strands of dried scallops in it. The best dish I've eaten using it was Salmon Mee Sua (Flour Vermicelli) with XO Sauce.

The final course was Fried Tang Hoon (Glass Noodles). The tang hoon was flavourful and had really absorbed the flavours of the cooking sauces. Beansprouts and spring onions added a nice cleansing crunch.

A complementary plate of fruits ended the dinner.

By now, most people were already filled to the brim (with food, wine and laughter) and one even went around telling dirty jokes at much applause from us floggers. Opps.

Foodwise, I find most meat dishes coated with too much corn starch and the sauces and flavours soon began feeling much like a repetition. Overall the food was too salty for me. The above dishes would go very well with rice which would have helped cut the saltiness.

Winewise, it was great. The people there are generous with their wines and there was much drinking and merry-making. No snobbish flair at all. So in a dinner setting such as this one, one would have tasted at least six or seven, if not more, wines. Yay. Thank you all.

After a while and after all the wine, the food didn't seem that important anymore as it faded into oblivion while loud laughter and clinking of glasses echoed through the night. Schedule permitting, I'll be signing up for the next makankakis dinner in June! *hic*

116/118 Rangoon Road
Tel: 9127 6550 (Doris)

Chew On This: Apparently the chef and bosses of this restaurant (including the Rangoon branch) all have dyed blonde hair! So maybe Miss Hilton may wanna consider a stint here after her release. That'll make a good show to watch.