Saturday, February 17, 2007

Spice Workout

Renn Thai
Suntec City
3 Temasek Blvd #B1-037
Singapore 038983
Tel : 6338-2066
Craving for Thai food on one of the weekdays after work, N and I had to run an errand in Suntec City so we thought why not check out Renn Thai as well since I have heard by the word of the mouth how affordable and value for money this place was. Well, considering its chic location, comfy decor and spacious allowance between each table, if the food is great, then it really makes the money worth.

Though I do not really know the background of this restaurant, people have been telling me how great the food is and its presentations. So I take the cue from there to check it out myself. I am a bigger fan of Thai cuisine than my wife N as I like the bold flavours, aromatic herbs and lots of interesting contrasts in textures of the different dishes. The cuisine itself is made up with a majority of influences from India, China and Malaysia. Part of its Chinese heritage is a strong presence of Teochew style of cooking which was the main dialect group of immigrants from China.

As we were keen for variety, we ordered Khao Tang Na Tang or commonly known as Crispy Pot Crust (rice bubbles) with a creamy spiced mined pork and shrimp dip and a glass noodle salad, Yum Woon Sen to start with.. This is one of my favourites finger foods with a dipping sauce similar to our local satay peanut sauce. The sauce was fragrant from the spices and rich coconut milk and the minced pork and shrimp gave it substance. Dunk a piece of crispy pot crust into the warm creamy dip; it’s a lovely combination of textures and flavours on the palate.
A new surprise to us was the complimentary combination platter for four different appetizers as we had hit a minimum amount from our ala carte orders. The combination platter consisted of Spring Rolls with Yam Stuffing, Thai Chicken Satay, Grilled Squid and a small serving of green mango salad, Yum Ma Muang. The combination platter arrived in a long sampan dish like those that u can find in Chatuchak or Suan Lum Markets in Bangkok. Divided into four segments, the four different appetizers sat in each sector with their beautiful garnishes and dipping sauces.

The spring rolls were piping hot and crispy with the fragrance of the yam slices coming through on first bite. It was a interesting change from the usual vegetable based Cantonese style ones. Complimented with some dried shrimp and mushrooms, it was an encore. The meat from the chicken satay was very well marinated and it reminded us of those in the market stalls in Bangkok where u can buy off the charcoal grill and snack along as you shopped. The dipping sauce was a Thai Sweet Chili sauce garnished with chopped roasted peanuts, red onions, chili and coriander leaves. Have everything in your mouth; you will get flavours of char grilled meat, spices, peanuts and fresh herbs with a sweet sour spicy back ground coming from the dipping sauce itself. The grilled squid was also great with its right doneness and simple soy dressing that enhance the natural taste of it with a tinge of smokiness. Breaking the momentum of the cooked items, the raw green mango salad served as a refreshing element in between the bites of the other items.

The Yum Woon Sen is one of my favourite salads and is one of those few Thai salads that are served warm. Freshly blanched glass noodles are given a quick blanch before being paired with sliced onions, birds eye chilies, cherry tomatoes, roasted peanuts, two kinds of seafood, fresh herbs and black fungus. All the ingredients were then toss in a fish sauce and lime juice dressing before being beautifully served in a whole lettuce leaf with two carved carrot flowers. The warm salad was beautifully brought alive with the tangy dressing and robust spiciness from the chilies and aromatic herbs. It also helped to cleanse our palates from the earlier combination of appetizers.

N loves Phad Thai. Ever since she fell in love with it since our first trip to Chiangmai, she got so hooked on it that it must be ordered each time we hit Thai cuisine. Kitchen modernization sometimes damages the authenticity of ethnic dishes. Many a time we have come across Phad Thai cooked on western hot plates for convenient and display reasons. This is especially so in food courts and is a crime to the heritage of this dish. It is like cooking our char kway teow on a hot plate and expecting to have the wok flavour in marriage with the sauces and noodles. Luckily the first whiff we got when N’s plate of Phad Thai arrived was the wok “hei” or aroma. That first sniff has already up the score by fifty points! Besides crucial ingredients like beancurd, dried shrimp, preserved radish (chye por) and garlic chives (gu chye), the noodle were well fried being still moist yet aromatic. Frying rice noodles is very much about skill and experience and cannot rely on precise measurements. Do you ever see the char kway teow uncle/auntie measure their water to cook with the noodles? It’s more about catching the right amount with experience, creating a synergy of frying the noodles with high heat, the sauces and condiments that go with it. With the entire plate finished up, I must say that N does like the noodles here.
Our vegetable dish was the Spicy Eggplants with Minced Chicken and Sweet Basil Leaves. This is one of my favourite dishes with rice because simply I love the taste of fresh sweet basil leaves and its affinity with chilies and soy. The key to success for this dish is to give the eggplants a quick blanch in hot oil before sautéing them with the minced meat over high heat so that they do not absorbed too much oil and become greasy. The fermented soy beans was also well balanced with palm sugar and the vibrant spices and herbs especially Thai basil and kaffir lime leaves added punch to the dish. I could just have this dish alone with rice!!

Curry is also a significant dish in every Thai meal because of its partial Indian heritage. There are many different types of curries but none simmered slowly like Indian or Malaysian curries. Rather, it’s a quick fry of the freshly made paste of dry and fresh spices in oil before coconut milk and water are added. The meat or seafood that are to be cooked together with some vegetables are cut into small pieces so that it does not require a long stewing process. Our red curry came with a vibrant colour and smelt really rich and delicious. N loved this dish especially the gravy for its aromatic spices and creamy texture. It made every plain rice grain came alive with its flavour contributing enhancement. The lovely boneless pieces of chicken meat absorbed the characters of the curry that it was cooked in and the vegetables complimented the slightly sweet curry sauce very well. The portion was rather decent and we couldn’t even finish the food due to the complimentary items earlier.

As we were quite stuffed by then, we skipped desserts for the night.

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