"A Chiang Rai culinary curiosity shop"
First up: my current absolute favourite thing to eat in the universe, their hot and sour spicy noodles. Since their menu is either in Thai or English (none of that romanised Thai for you!), I'm going to go ahead and assume the soup base is a tomyum of sorts. Devilishly spicy and addictive, this is the soup to slurp down when you have sinuses needing clearing. Bits of meat and liver slices float in the soup amongst the nest of skinny flat rice noodles, giving you perfect meaty bites. I dream of this often at night and wake up in a fervour, grabbing my car keys and heading to Lai Thai straight away.
Lai Thai doesn't serve stand alone tomyum, as it would require a lot more ingredients (seafood, special chillies, etc) and preparation. "Other places serve tomyum too, but theirs is very Malaysianised. Ours is thick and almost oily in comparison," Pi Un, the owner points out. "Plus, we also try to keep our meats to just pork and chicken." Seafood being a touch more expensive and hard to keep, and beef-free because of their Buddhist beliefs.
My old usual order is their stir fried mince pork with basil leaf on red rice, topped with a fried egg. Also known as pad ga prao, the heady scent of basil hits your nose even before the plate hits the table. If the cook hasn't accidentally over-fried your egg - which alas happens often during busy shifts - you'll get a glorious runny yolk mixing in with your rice. A match made in heaven for the lovely morsels of spicy minced pork just dying to get in your belly.
Mondays being their green curry day, we of course had to try some. Touted by many of my friends as the best green curry in Klang Valley, the delicious creaminess of this curry is pretty much second to none. Full of chicken pieces, eggplant and those little pea eggplants, each bite makes you feel like you're sitting in a Thai grandma's home. Other notable dishes include their som tum, freshly prepared to order with generous shavings of green papaya and peanuts. Their larb moo is also an adventurous delight - minced pork tossed with pork liver, intestines and rind, then mixed with a hot yet refreshingly sour dressing of fish sauce, lime and chilli flakes. I'm from the tripe-smell-like-wet-dog school of Tony Bourdain, but I wolfed this down quite happily, intestines and all. The lime really does seem to take the dampness away from the intestines.
"A Siamese Sensation"
The best way to experience Thai Asam Fish is by ordering a number of side dishes to be served with plain rice, though the menu also offers individual dishes such as fried meals. The portions are presented on a scale of Small, Medium, and Large, so it caters to parties of all sizes. The meal has a couple of must-have dishes, but the greatest of them all is the highly recommended signature dish, the Asam Thai Seafood platter. It’s a hot, steaming red brew of sliced mackerel with prawns and squids. The taste is an exquisite blend of sour tamarind, spices, and santan, together with chopped tomatoes, lady fingers and long beans. It all rounds up into a soup that is a fiery, zesty broth with a delicious asam pedas kick!
Another dish to try is the Buttermilk Chicken. Chunks of juicy chicken dripping with creamy buttermilk sauce, curry leaves and chili. The rich sauce is so flavoured that it’s good enough to slurp on its own. For a dry buttermilk dish, try the Butter Mantis Prawn. The prawns are sweet and salty, fried into crisp bites. They’re buried in shavings of sweet egg crusts, taking the crunchiness to a whole new level.
A seafood side dish we recommend is the Sizzling Spicy Sotong. The dish arrived to us spitting and spluttering sambal juices, with bundles of squid to share. Chewy squids in a thick sambal sauce with green chili and garlic, offering a nice heavy spiciness that is also quite sweet. For the vegetable sides, we settled on Steamed Bean Curd with Soy Sauce. The curds are soft, providing an airy taste to counter the flavorful dishes. Sprinkled with spring onions and fried shrimps with light soy sauce, it’s a nice compliment to the meal. More »
"You have to try the Moo Thod Kapi..."
The quiet end of Taman Tun has been getting plenty of love in recent years. Pubs are plentiful, our beloved coffee joint Artisan
has moved there, and it being pretty near the FC office is a bonus! Joining the fold about a year ago, Surisit “The Thai Kopitiam” has proved to be a firm favourite amongst those looking for a satisfying Thai meal. I gathered a tableful of friends in record time one weeknight to check out the food. Surisit is set up like a kopitiam, with white walls and wooden accents. Scents float into the dining area from the kitchen, enticing us to order something from almost every section of the menu. As we hear that the place is run by one of the founders of Montien in Bangsar (thanks, Ciki!), we were quite eager to sample as much as we could.
Drinks arrived first, and the hit proved to be the bottled Thai tamarind juice. Incredibly refreshing and not overly sour like its local counterparts, everyone ended up ordering a bottle each.
One of Surisit’s main shticks is that it serves pork. Unlike most Thai restaurants in town that dutifully cater very well to the halal crowd, this place remains true to the main meat of Thai cuisine, which delighted the Thailand-philes of our table. First to arrive was the tom yam kah moo, or tom yam with braised pork hocks. We loved the contrast of the smooth meat against the sourness of the soup, and it was a delicious change from the usual seafood tom yam soups we were used to.
Then some tauhoo yat sai, fried stuffed tofu. Much like the “special tofu” you see in many Chinese restaurants, this had a Thai twang to it, with bits of seafood and a spicy dip. More »
"Great Thai in the middle of nowhere..."
Folks, set aside your presumptions, I certainly did when I headed off for Jalan 5 off Jln Chan Sow Lin. With China Press on my right I hunted for the grimy landmark along a small river. Voila, the rubbish heap next to Sg Kerayong is there and I subsequently turned left into the little lane which ran parallel with the river. The sheer darkness and many stray dogs can be intimidating but do soldier on. Be prepared to give way to vehicles coming from the opposite direction, fortunately there were some grassy space to veer the car to the side. A 4WD would be best to handle the potholes. A short bumpy ride later, we entered a little green oasis, complete with fishing ponds and fresh fish for sale.
Sawadee 88 is so off the beaten track that I doubt it’s a place people would bump into unless by sheer determination and word of mouth. Despite its obscure location, the many parked cars attest to its reputation and popularity. We are greeted by friendly Thai staff and a local Chinese lady who took our orders while handling the cash register. With cheesy Thai pop music playing in the background, chefs shouting orders in foreign accents and tables set in individual attap huts complete with fairy lights, it felt like I’ve landed slap bang into little Bangkok town. There’s also a grilling charcoal station at the back manned by a dedicated grill boy.
Our orders arrived pretty quickly. First up was the siham bakar and the addictive dipping sauces. The first had chilies, belacan and some dried shrimp (reminds me of nam prik), the second was a sweeter chili sauce with peanuts. It was perfect for dipping the cockles into. Portions were generous though I did stumble across one or two with a muddy aftertaste. The somtam or Thai papaya salad arrived and was faultless. The shredded papaya was crunchy and had the right balance of sweet, sour and spicy. You also have the option of adding shrimps, crab or squid to it but we preferred ours plain.
Next up was my favourite of the lot - white tomyam which came in the traditional steamboat apparatus. I detected cili padi and dried chilli in the soup with hunk loads of seafood (prawns, fish, squid and crab), tomatoes and mushrooms. The soup was clear with hues of red, deliciously spicy sour to the last drop and went perfectly with plain rice.
"Treasures for the steamboat include lobsters..."
You know a restaurant pulls out all the stops when you have your individual pots for steamboat. If you are feel icky about sharing the communal one, then Planter Jim’s in Bangsar’s famed Telawi area is the place to go. The owners are Ek and his wife Mei Li who have been in business for 12 years. They were among the first ones to set up their business in Bangsar back in 1997.
The interior is tastefully decorated with Asian-infused paintings, depicting the cultural richness of the Far East. There is also a well-stocked bar and mini cigar divan for those wanting to unwind after a hearty meal. Guests can choose to dine at the al-fresco area while enjoying the surrounding nightlife of Bangsar.
The new addition of steamboat in the delectable Thai menu is of course a good move to add some variety. They even serve up exotic items such as oysters, crabs, lobsters and more. This is a good place to entertain your guests on a more refined level of steamboating, which is where the individual pots come in handy. Among the seafood treasures for the steamboat include whole live Australian lobster, Sri Lankan crab, fresh king prawns, fresh Australian Black Lip Mussels, live Australian oysters, kingfish, tropical lobsters and rainbow lobsters. The steamboat sets even come with starters and dessert.
I tried the Seafood Steamboat Set priced at RM55. The starter comprised of Chargrilled Rib Eye Skewers – northern style grilled rib of beef marinated with lemon grass and spices on skewers and served with peanut sauce. The meat was succulent and the lemon grass had an interesting and distinct flavouring. The classic style Tom Yam prawn base broth came with prawns, squid, fish balls and fish slices, tofu, mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, vegetables, noodles and eggs. The basic Meaty Steamboat set costs RM39 for a minimum of two people. If customers want more exotic items like the lobster and such they of course have to spend more. More »
"Each morsel in the poktek is as fresh as a daily catch"
Move over Vicchuda, the glory days of the humble Kelantanese-Thai restaurant are back! These small unobtrusive 'tom-yam' shops seemed to prosper long before the age of the 'MAMAK', with humble premises but quality food. Alas! Today's family owned Tomyam shops are few and far between. Tucked away in a shoplot in Kota Damansara however, lies a little gem called CHUN BURI, which has renewed my faith in the Kelantanese ability to do it right (by way of food I mean).
If you're not looking for it, it is very easy to miss Chun Buri. The shop is plain at best and the name doesn't sound remotely appetizing. But once you're seated, the menu looks a little bit more promising. What is surprising are the prices, really reasonable, cheap even- for a shop located in the affluent Kota Damansara area.
Aside for the typical Kelantanese-Thai fare, they also serve bubur nasi, ikan bakar and kerang bakar here. The house speciality would have to be the Tomyam Poktek, 'poktek' meaning 'claypot'.
We ordered the main staples- Nasi Putih, Kailan Goreng Biasa, Telur Dadar, Kerabu Sotong, Ikan Siakap Stim Limau, Daging Goreng Kunyit and a seafood Tomyam Poktek.
The tomyam poktek is a clear white-ish broth and comes steaming hot in a claypot. The taste is sour and hot as tomyam should be, but slightly more subtle when compared to the typical red tomyam that is usually served. What was most pleasing was the seafood. I was expecting the usual; small, 'not-particularly fresh' prawns and a few token squid rings, but instead the soup was filled with tiger prawns, lala, crabs, fish and squid, and each morsel was as fresh as a daily catch. Chun Buri also serves up the normal red tomyam, which is just as good but really Hot! So if you can't stand the chillies, go for the white variety- which also comes sans 'Poktek'. More »
"Dig into the bamboo depths for all sorts of goodies"
It was one of those rainy Sunday nights where most of the usual hawkers were closed. Hankering for something different, we arrived at Sao Nam with images of sour, sweet dishes in our heads. Nothing like rain to awaken hunger in the tummy. The Sao Nam at Plaza Damas is a nice place for a rainy night. You can sit outdoors under the covered sidewalk and enjoy cool breezes in an otherwise very hot city.
There’s a whole special menu at the back, some you need to pre-order but I’m here for the Goi Mang Cut or the prawn and mangosteen salad. It never ceases to amaze me how delicious Indochinese salads are. Vietnamese uses familiar ingredients like Thai but with it’s own twist. Chewing through the food it's easy to imagine the joined borders and love of fresh greens and fruits coupled with essentials like fish sauce and tender meats. This is a signature salad and marries the juicy, tongue tingling mangosteen and fresh, briny prawns to perfection. It is then mixed with a Vietnamese vinaigrette, a combination of vinegar and squeezed citrusy-sour fruits. For texture they mix in some dried coconut and strips of salted squid. So delicious…
I tried the beef in a bamboo tube next. This one is oily with tender beef, a little bit like the Cambodian Luc Lac
except it has more gravy and finely chopped herbs like mint and kafir lime interred thoroughly within it. Best thing about this dish is that it’s full of sliced onions adding mellow sweetness to the gravy. You eat this with a combination of starfruit slices, lettuce and more Vietnamese ulam
in rice paper.
The rice paper is as fragile as paper so the trick here is to layer it with the lettuce and starfruit, dollop on the beef and try to roll and eat it before the beef gravy soaks past the paper and lands in a mush on your plate. I find that eating this with a small bowl of rice a better option. It’s got a salty edge that goes great with sticky rice and though the bamboo casing looks small, dig into its depth and you’ll get all sorts of gravied goodies like caramelised onions and bits of beef that’s dropped off and grounded down into the herbs at the bottom. More »