The spread at Jai Thai | Photo: Jai Thai Facebook
A trip to the Land of Smiles is easy enough to do, but if you need a quick, authentic Thai food fix, head to one of these joints. We’ve rounded up our top picks for the city’s most bona fide tom yum, Thai salads, stir-fried pork with basil leaves and more so you can get more than just your phrik nam pla (Thai fish sauce) cravings satiated, and at [close to] Thailand's prices too:
|Diandin Leluk's deceptively mild-looking tom yum|
CRITIC’S PICK Diandin Leluk
Best for the homesick
This restaurant started out selling packed lunches off a rented lorry, catering mostly to construction workers. That was in the 1980s. Then it got a permanent location amongst the Thai bars and grocers on the ground floor of Golden Mile Complex — the edifice more affectionately known as ‘Little Thailand’. This Bangkok- and Northern Thailand-eats restaurant still provides unabashed authentic meals with prominent, homely flavours:
The mild-looking clear tom yum seafood soup ($10) belies a fiery mash of green and red chillies, while the papaya and mango salads ($5) are equally potent. Adventurous Singapore foodies should try the lab moo ($8), a sinful spicy pork salad from the Northeastern region of Thailand — ground pork tossed with bits of liver, intestine and pig’s skin, and spiked with mint, kaffir, cilantro, lime, chilli, shallots and roasted grounded rice. A must-try rustic Northern Thai number is the nam prik kapi with pla thu ($10) — an assortment of mixed vegetables like cauliflower, Thai eggplant and long beans served with fried mackerel and shrimp paste chilli.
Diandin Leluk | Address: #01-67 Golden Mile Complex, 5001 Beach Road | Tel: 62935101 | Opening hours: 24 hours
|The stir-fried pork with basil leaves at Gold Food |
Thai Chinese Cuisine is superb
Gold Food Thai Chinese Cuisine
Best hidden city gem
This green-and-yellow place is gold, at least to the foreign tenants from the Sunshine Plaza apartments upstairs and the students from nearby NAFA who come for dinner. It's not wrong to trust these early adapters on their choices:
Gold Food’s small selection of Chinese-influenced fare like rad na (Hong Kong-style hor fun) is well done with the de rigueur wok hei flavour, but it's the Thai standards that shine: the stir-fried pork with basil leaves and chilli ($5–$15) is one of the most authentic in town — order it as a one-dish meal, and get an egg sunny-side up with it. The barbecued pork or beef served with chilli sauce ($8–$15) is beautifully charred, the meat tender with a smoky hint. If you crave the standards, the lip-numbingly hot papaya salad ($5) tossed with shredded carrots and peanuts in spicy fish sauce dressing, is addictive. Take all of these in with the Thai iced tea ($1.40) here — rich, milky and sweet, but not overly so, with a robust black tea flavour.
Gold Food Thai Chinese Cuisine | Address: #01-14 Sunshine Plaza, 91 Bencoolen Street | Tel: 68831575 | Opening hours: Daily 11.30am–4pm, 5–11pm
Best value-for-money sets
This restaurant serving affordable and satisfying Thai food sets is already in three locations; its fourth is being set up at Dhoby Ghaut Exchange. Set meals here cost less than $10, making the excellent tom yum soup more accessible than it already is: the tom yum with noodles or rice set (with a choice of a drink — lime juice, iced lemon tea, coffee, tea or Chinese tea — $6.80) centres on the clear seafood soup that has a perfect zingy balance of lemongrass and chilli. The green curry set comes at the same price, and is worth it for the luscious-without-being-too-cloying gravy. The pineapple rice set ($8.80) is equally value-laden: it comes with spring rolls, green curry chicken, fried fish fillet with chilli sauce and pandan chicken.
Halal diners can eat easilyy here: Jai Thai does not serve pork, and substitutes pork with chicken.
Jai Thai | Address: #01-01 An Chuan Building, 27 Purvis Street and three other locations | Tel: 63366908 | Opening hours: Daily 11.30am–3pm; 6–10pm
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Best for capital eats
Chef Joe, a former cook at Parkway Thai Restaurant for six years, opened this no-frills restaurant located at the foot of an old block in Bukit Merah with his wife, Jamie. Although the chef hails from E-sarn, there aren’t too many Northeastern specialties on the menu. It is instead dominated by dishes from the Thai capital:
Start off with the Thai prawn cakes ($2.30 each) coated in golden breadcrumbs; the fresh prawns are hand-chopped into chunky bits, the reason for the chewy texture in the bites. The tom yam soup ($5-$12.90) is sufficiently spicy and zingy with a generous handful of straw mushrooms while the dry curry chicken ($10-$20) is a rich red curry, good for soaking up with rice. Speaking of, order the fragrant shrimp paste fried rice topped with fluffy omelette ($6-$12) but do leave room for the mango sticky rice ($5). Lightly doused in coconut milk, the rice is warm and deliciously sticky and paired with a thick, succulent slice of mango - it's one of the best we’ve tried. If you're looking to try something less ordinary to these parts, a Northeastern standout is the spicy minced pork salad ($8) – pork lovers will relish the dish coated in zesty lime dressing, accented with onions and chilli.
Joe’s Kitchen | Address: Blk 125 Bukit Merah Lane 1, #01-182 | Tel: 6270 8484 | Opening hours: Daily 11am-3pm, 5pm-10pm
A Thai dish not commonly found in Singapore -
Best for Thai seafood selection
Queues are a common sight at Nakhon Kitchen, but the specials are worth the wait. At this community-loved non air-conditioned branch, the tom yam ($6) comes in three versions – in clear, thick or coconut bases. The spicy thick tom yam is our choice, although all three make for worthy slurps. The deep-fried boneless chicken (two pieces for $4) and pad thai ($5) are also well executed.
A dish not commonly found in other eateries is pineapple curry with mussels ($8) – plump pieces of the shellfish cooked in a spicy coconut-rich base. You don’t have to be a fan of the bivalves to like the addictive herb-and-chilli gravy. The restaurant is also big on seafood, teeming with a selection of over ten dishes ($10-22); the stir-fried mussels and clams with sweet basil leaves is a great alternative to the usual ground pork with basil.
Nakhon Kitchen | Address: Blk 136 Bedok North Ave 3 #01-166 and one other place | Tel: 6245 5548 | Opening hours: Daily noon-2.45pm, 5.30pm-9.45pm