Sawadee ka! Rules of etiquette When travelling in Thailand

Wai_-_Traditional_Thai_hospitality

As far as many Asian countries go for visiting foreigners, Thailand is certainly among the most relaxed with regard to customs and rules. Having been a top destination for tourism for over 60 years, Thailand is known for its warm hospitality and uniquely welcoming ways. However, that is not to say that anything goes. While the Thai customs may not be as fixed or rigid as Japanese or Chinese, there are still some big DO’s and DON’Ts to be mindful of when traveling, greeting and eating in Thailand. Continue Reading →

Cooking demonstration with Chef Renu, and a few special guests

Cooking demo with Chef Renu_2

During my stay at Angsana, Bintan, I had the opportunity to participate in a cooking demonstration with Chef Renu Homsombat, Banyan Tree’s Corporate Chef at Saffron. The dishes that I was learning were from the four course dégustation meal that I had at Saffron. I was very excited to uncover the secrets behind Chef Renu’s delicious food. Continue Reading →

Colours of Thailand at Angsana, Bintan

Thai street food
A couple of weekends ago, I was invited to Angsana Bintan for a quick weekend getaway, and also to experience their quarterly weekend event, The Colours of Thailand. Among the activities lined up, it included feasting on a selection of Thai cuisine that was thoughtfully prepared by Chef Renu Homsombat, Banyan Tree’s Corporate Chef at Saffron, who had specially flown in from Bangkok for the event. Continue Reading →

Lewu Cafe- my Thai food haunt

green papaya salad

The tall, slim, olive-skinned, always-smiling Thai female staff, the sound of sizzling woks in the background and the delicious smell of curry bubbling on the hob, all bring me back to my idyllic days of holidaying and eating by the scenic beaches of Phuket. Lewu Cafe is my choice when I’m in need of some authentic Thai grub, and if I close my eyes, I might just be able to feel the sand in my toes again. Continue Reading →

Soul Food Mahanakorn, street food, sexy setting in Bangkok

soul-food-fried-chicken

I might very well be the last food blogger in Asia to write about Soul Food Mahanakorn in Bangkok. Which is really kind of pathetic since I consider owner Jarrett Wrisley a friend. And I’ve known about this swanky eatery since before it even opened three years ago. Circumstances, however, had kept me from getting a chance to actually eat at Soul Food until just recently. The meal was really great, which is why I’m now, finally, able to give Jarrett a shout-out here. Continue Reading →

Krua Apsorn, where in-the-know foodies eat in Bangkok

krua-apsorn-crab-curry

A number of years back, when I was in Bangkok on an overnight work trip, a good friend there took me out for a magnificent meal at a restaurant I had (at that time) never heard of. She in turn had first visited there as a guest of our mutual friend Chef David Thompson, who had hosted her along with a celebrity chef visiting from London. In the years since, Krua Apsorn has become one of the most celebrated restaurants in the City of Angels, and yet remains to this day one of its most modest and affordable. Continue Reading →

An easy recipe for Gai Yang, Thai Grilled Chicken

Gai Yang - Thai grilled chicken

One of the easiest and most delicious dishes that my wife and I like to make at home is Gai Yang, or Thai-style grilled chicken. If you’re a regular reader of this site, you’ll remember that we served Gai Yang as the main course on our Diner en Blanc Singapore menu. While easy to cook and a joy to eat, especially with some sticky rice and some Thai sweet chilli sauce, the trick to making a great Gai Yang is to marinate the chicken (at least) overnight. Continue Reading →

The Siam, Bangkok (part 2)

Fried egg, tomato and minced pork salad from The Siam

When my darling wife S and I choose a hotel to stay in, one of the most important factors (for us) is the food. While I realise that there are many that choose not to eat in the hotels they stay in, we tend to have at least one real meal (other than breakfast) if not more on property. To me, the food and beverage side of a hotel is as important as the room size, the service, and the architecture. When I choose to stay somewhere nice, I want to experience all that the hotel offers. And that means checking out their restaurants and bars (as well as their spa, gym, etc). When S and I checked into The Siam a few weeks back, knowing that the owners Kriss and Mel are real foodies, we were very much looking forward to exploring the hotel’s restaurants. Continue Reading →

The Siam, Bangkok (part 1)

The Siam hotel Bangkok

Over a decade ago, my next door neighbor, a stunning half Chinese, half British gal from Hong Kong met an equally handsome Thai rock star and fell in love. A number of years later, Kriss (the rock star, now also an actor) led S and me on a fun, rather amusing tour of his favourite old buildings in Bangkok, which culminated in us being chased out of the former Russian Embassy by security guards at two in the morning. Another couple of years later, Kriss showed us an amazing plot of land, on the river and in the old part of the city, that had been in his mother’s family for decades. He told us how he wanted to build a truly stunning, riverside, five-star urban resort there – something that would fit within his mother’s hotel company but that would also embrace his love of antiques, architecture, vintage glamour and luxury. That dream would eventually become The Siam, one of the most stunning hotels in Asia and easily the most significant new property to open in Thailand this year.  Continue Reading →

Grilled pork neck with a spicy sour sauce, recipe by David Thompson

My darling and always hungry wife S and I are big Thai food fans. Which means (quite automatically) that we’re big, big fans of Chef David Thompson. No chef has done more to teach us non-Thais about really good, authentic Thai food than David. So, when we heard that David’s latest restaurant, Nahm, located in the always chic lobby of The Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok, was finally opening its doors last Saturday, we jumped at the chance to be among its first guests.

We flew up to Bangkok on Friday via a very crowded Cathay Pacific flight. We were originally going to be quite boring and stay in that night, ordering up some room service (to say we had a very long week at the office would have been a gross understatement). But to our great fortune, David was able to extract himself from the restaurant for a few hours and invited us, along with a few other friends, to head out to a street stall just a short walk from The Met. I love David’s Thai Street Food . It’s a book I just love flipping through. So there was no way (no matter how tired we were), either S or I were going to turn down the offer to head out on the streets of the City of Angels with the book’s author.

We had a fabulous meal. One of the dishes I enjoyed most was a lovely plate of grilled pork neck–one of my all-time favourite cuts of what I’ve previously declared is my favourite type of meat. (keep reading)

Obsessed with stuffed tofu

There are some restaurants and cafes that I go to specifically for one dish. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of the food served at these places isn’t up to snuff, it simply means that that one dish has become one of my favourite things to eat. A meal in one of these establishments just isn’t complete without an order of, well, for example, double-boiled chicken soup with shark’s fin at Noble House in Singapore, the charcoal-grilled Tuscan steak for two at Harlan’s in Hong Kong, a croque monsieur at Harry’s Bar in Venice, the truffled egg pasta at Buon Ricordo in Sydney, or the tempura mentaiko shiso at Torisho Taka, also in Singapore. These are dishes that I have, over time, come to associate with these specific restaurants. I can’t, for example, think of places like Billy Kwong’s without dreaming of Kylie’s crispy duck or imagine visiting Sadaharu Aoki’s pastry parlors in Japan without a taste of his green tea eclair.

Recently, I have discovered another such dish that I have become slightly obsessed with and that I have been snacking on at least once every week or two. When chef Chris Millar first told me he was opening a Thai cafe in Upper Bukit Timah, I have to admit that while I was excited for him, I wondered if it was the right thing for him to do. After all, his training was very much in classical European cuisine, and Rail Mall — where he had decided to open Sweet Salty Spicy — while accessible by car, wasn’t exactly central. Over the weeks leading up to Sweet Salty Spicy’s opening, Chef Millar told me more about his enterprise. He surprised me with the news that his business partner in this venture was Victor Chia, the “vegetable stud” of Tekka Market. My loving wife S has been a loyal customer of Victor’s for years. If you’ve been to Tekka, you’ll recognize him as the muscled vegetable stall owner that blasts bossa nova tunes and who stocks the best Western and Asian greens in the market. Chris also let on that he wasn’t doing the cooking. His young and superbly talented chef was going to be training under the guys from the famous Sailors Thai in Sydney in order to prepare for Sweet Salty Spicy’s opening.

Sweet Salty Spicy is a cool, casual cafe cum deli. There’s a corner devoted to selling some of Victor’s best produce. The cake counter is bursting with delicious Western pastries. And shelves are stocked with homemade spice mixes and Thai sauces. The dining area is bright and relaxed. This is very much the kind of place you head to for a long weekend lunch, to kill a few bottles of wine and hang out with good friends.

Overall, the food is good. S adores the papaya salad that is served with roasted pork, raw cabbage and coconut rice. My favourite dish, and the one that keeps me coming back, is the deep fried silken tofu with fresh crab, coriander and stuffed with minced pork. Yum. It has three of my favourite elements: pork, crab, and it’s deep-fried. What more could an unhealthy boy want? Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who has discovered just how good this dish is. The waiters tell me if often sells out (boy, I really rue the day I go there to find out it’s not available). Eaten with a little sweet Thai chilli sauce, this is a super-savory and satisfying snack. And one that I could happily eat daily (of course, I’d also probably die of high cholesterol).

I’ve pestered chef Millar into sharing the recipe for this with us. But since I can jump in my car, and be tucking into the dish within 30 minutes, I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to making it myself. I hope, though, that some of you try it and that you’ll be wowed by the results.

DEEP FRIED SILKEN TOFU WITH FRESH CRAB, CORIANDER AND MINCED PORK STUFFING
Recipe by David Thompson

50G MINCED FATTY PORK
1 TBSP LIGHT SOY SAUCE
DRIZZLE OF OYSTER SAUCE
PINCH PALM SUGAR
50G COOKED CRAB MEAT
2 TBSP CHOPPED CORIANDER LEAVES
2 SPRING ONIONS, CHOPPED
300G SILKEN TOFU
BANANA LEAF
1-2 EGGWHITES
PINCH OF SALT
PINCH OF GROUND WHITE PEPPER
DRIZZLE OF SESAME OIL
½ CUP PLAIN FLOUR, SEASONED WITH SALT AND PEPPER
OIL FOR DEEP FRYING

PASTE:
1 CORIANDER ROOT, SCRAPPED AND CHOPPED
PINCH OF SALT
2 GARLIC CLOVES, PEELED
2 SLICES OF GINGER
LARGE PINCH OF GROUND WHITE PEPPER

METHOD:
Using a mortar and pestle, pound together the paste ingredients until fine. Combine with pork and season with light soy sauce, oyster sauce and sugar. Slap the mixture- pick it up and throw back in the bowl- until it becomes firmer and stickier. Work in the crab meat and two thirds of the coriander and spring onions.

Drain the tofu and slice in half crosswise. Gently separate the curd and place one half on a piece of banana leaf. Shape the stuffing into the equivalent rectangular shape of the tofu. Place the stuffing onto the bean curd and top with the other half of tofu.

Refrigerate for at least an hour, then gently steam on the banana leaf for 25 minutes- it should feel firm. Remove and refrigerate for at least one hour. When required cut the tofu sandwich into 6 pieces. Beat the egg whites with salt, pepper and sesame oil. Dip the tofu into the egg whites then roll in flour. Deep-fry in plenty of clean oil until golden. Drain, and served sprinkled with reserved spring onions and coriander.

CONDIMENT: SSS sweet chili sauce

Sweet Salty Spicy
392/394 Upper Bukit Timah Road
The Rail Mall
(opposite the railway bridge, near hillview)
Singapore
Tel: +65 6877 2544