Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bangkok eats: See Fah

with Janet and Kennard

Arriving on a Sunday for a whole week of work is not fun. But we had to do so for the 3rd IATA World Cargo Symposium in Bangkok's Centara Convention Centre. As a first treat, we headed for See Fah - a fairly traditional, home styled restaurant in Central World. Billed as a Chinese Restaurant, we found the place to serve traditional Thai cuisine very well.

For starters we had the pad thai kung.

As we shared a portion, the picture above was my portion. Pad Thai uses a kind of kway teow which is different from those used for Penang CKT or Singapore CKT. The Thai version uses a dehydrated kway teow, which is made from pure rice grains, and contains no oil. The kway teow is rehydrated by soaking in warm water just before frying, and the firm-ness of the noodle becomes a variable that the cook can play with to achieve what she wants - al dente or soft. This plate of pad thai was expertly fried, the noodle just a little softer than al dente, and blends seamlessly with the eggs, prawns, cubed tofu, vegetables. The bean sprouts were particularly very large and fat, and unlike those served in Malaysia and Singapore, were left raw by the cook to be added only by the diner. I usually mix it in quickly into the hot noodles, and allow it to cook - as there is no active heat source, this leaves the sprouts to be a bit rare and crunchy. A sprinkling of dried chilli flakes makes it a lovely starter.

We also had the tod man pla - Thai fish cakes.

A Thai speciality, the fish cakes were savoury and tasty. Nice flavour. The texture was a bit springy, but cuts easily with a fork/spoon, but retains some resistance to the bite. Eaten with the sweet and spicy red chilli sauce, it was very good.

Tom yam kung is another quintessential Thai dish.

This was not the clear soup variety, but came with a cloudy, brownish soup which was rich and fragrant. Straw mushrooms provided some savoury umami to the tastebuds which are assaulted by the astringent, spicy and sourness of the soup. The prawns were de-shelled, and very fresh, with a good flavour of the sea.

We also ordered glass noodles with king prawns, which came in a claypot

Yet another traditional Thai dish, this one was cooked with a twist. Typically this dish is cooked in a claypot, with the prawns halfed, and glass noodles over a bed of pork lard. The lard provides flavour and fragrance. Generous sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper and spring onions are usual accompaniments. But the See Fah version is rather special that it contains dried Chinese mushrooms which provided a punchy, rich flavour which was ably fortified by slices of prime back bacon. The bacon provided ample flavour, umami and richness not experienced in lesser variants. This was quite wonderful.

For desserts, we decided to stay Thai traditional...and had one serving each of khao neow mango and khao neow durian.

Khao neow is Thai for sticky rice, or glutinous rice. This is a staple in the North Eastern Thailand province of Issarn, and often eaten with fried chicken. It is also a favourite for dessert in cakes and kueh, but also in with durian. Served with durian, Thai durian is used. This is frequently less fragrant and more fleshy than the Malaysian variants. Thai durians are scientifically farmed, and harvested from the trees mechanically. Malaysian durians are allowed to ripen on the tree and fall, and then picked up for sale.

A thick, sweet coconut milk accompanies this dish. The durian was Monthoong, and quite fragrant. It was a bit bitter, but mainly very sweet, creamy and soft. It want very well with the coconut milk and sticky rice. I returned two days later after dinner at another restaurant with Dr. Mycroft, who also happened to be in Bangkok that day, to have this as dessert. He too loved it.

The mango was not to be left behind. Served dry with Thai mango, with a small amount of first pass coconut milk, and a sprinkling of sugar, it too was delicious. The Thais prefer their mango to show some sour undertones over a sweet base, and for the fruit to be smooth, fiberless. This is unlike Pakistani mangoes which are extremely sweet, super smooth texture.

We enjoyed the meal at See Fah very much, and will keep this on the map for further visits.

See Fah Restaurant
Level 6
Central World
Tel. 02-255-6368-71
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