Thai treats: 3 new eateries to try this week

We check out three new spots for casual goodies like Thai milk tea, ice cream ‘love letters’, and thick toast with sang kaya

1. Tuk Tuk Cha
1. Tuk Tuk Cha
09 Sep 2015

1. Tuk Tuk Cha

#02-605A SUNTEC CITY TOWER 3, 3 TEMASEK BLVD, S038983. TEL: 8799-8722. OPEN DAILY. MON-THUR 10AM-9.30PM; FRI 10AM-10PM, WEEKENDS 11AM-10PM. LAST ORDERS 30 MINS BEFORE CLOSING. WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/TUKTUKCHASG

Opened by Thai lady boss Khun Aum, 38, who also owns Thai Boat Noodles at Bedok Point Mall, this month-old dessert and drink joint is to sweet-a-holics what bars are to lushes — an oasis of pure pleasure. Just look out for the refurbished tuk tuk in front — Khun paid $20,000 to have it shipped here. It looks right at home at the kiosk, which resembles a spruced up wooden shack. The authentic Thai-style coffees and teas served here will take you right back to the streets of Thailand. The sugar level of the beverages has been tweaked for Singaporean palates (it’s still plenty sweet, though), but the drinks are still robust and aromatic. The bustling, mostly takeaway outfit which seats 14, also serves sinfully good desserts. Such as its signature bite-sized Golden Toast cubes served with dips like pandan, taro or Thai tea kaya.

Tuk Tuk Cha: The Snacks
Tuk Tuk Cha: The Snacks
09 Sep 2015

Tuk Tuk Cha: The Snacks

Golden Toast with Thai Tea Kaya ($3.80)

Each toasted, buttery golden brown cube is crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and fragrant enough to be eaten plain. But drenching it in the accompanying rich, creamy, yet not too sweet sang kaya dip infused with delicate coconut notes takes it to a whole new level of decadence. Add $1 more for the Thai tea kaya dip, which tastes like a thicker, caramelised version of cha yen (iced tea). Worth. Every. Calorie.

Tuk Tuk Cha: The Snacks
Tuk Tuk Cha: The Snacks
09 Sep 2015

Tuk Tuk Cha: The Snacks

Aloha Coconut Shibuya Toast ($10.80)

This is Tuk Tuk Cha’s version of the Shibuya thick toast from popular Bangkok café chain, After You. And it comes pretty close to the real deal. Slathered with a mixture of salted and unsalted butter and coated in honey, the block of warm pillowy toast, topped with generous strips of young coconut flesh, soaks up all that rich Thai coconut ice cream for a wonderful mouthfeel. Our only gripe is having to eat this with disposable utensils.

Tuk Tuk Cha: The Snacks
Tuk Tuk Cha: The Snacks
09 Sep 2015

Tuk Tuk Cha: The Snacks

Hojicha ($4.80)

This may not be a traditional Thai drink, but it sure is delicious. Steeped with roasted green tea leaves from Japan, its earthy, nutty and toasty flavours hit all the right spots. The milk actually complements the earthiness of the tea. You can add zesty mango pearls, which burst pleasantly in your mouth, caramel jelly or coconut jelly for an extra 50 cents. But we prefer our tea neat.

BOTTOM LINE: Cheap, tasty snacks. The goodies here should keep you sated till your next trip to Thailand.
 

2. 21 Cube Artisan Ice Cream
2. 21 Cube Artisan Ice Cream
09 Sep 2015

2. 21 Cube Artisan Ice Cream

#02-29 SCAPE ORCHARD, S237978. OPEN DAILY. WEEKDAYS NOON-10PM; WEEKENDS 11AM-10PM. LAST ORDERS AT CLOSING. WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/21CUBEARTISANICECREAM

Have you watched the strangely fascinating YouTube videos of ‘instant ice cream’ where Thai street hawkers ‘fry up’ cute rolls of frozen cream from scratch? Now you can try this humble treat here at the more glamorous 21 Cube Artisan.

Started by three 22-year-old blokes, this month-old ice cream takeaway stand (it’s called 21 Cube ’cos “they were 21 when they registered the company”) is a ‘fried ice’ paradise. And judging by the long queues at similar pop-up stall, Happy Rollies, at the recent Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar, Singaporeans are lapping up this popular Thai street snack. The three pals tell us they chanced upon the fried ice cream rolls at Bangkok’s Union Mall and decided to bring it to Singapore.

How it works: Choose from six different liquid bases like matcha and Yakult, then add a mixer ($4.90) or two ($5.40) like Nutella or lychee. Then watch as the server ‘fries’ up your order by pouring the gooey liquid on a cold metal plate, mixing, chopping and smearing the now-coagulated concoction into thin sheets before neatly rolling out a bouquet of frozen ‘love letters’. The girth of the rolls largely depends on your chosen ingredients and the server’s skill.
 

21 Cube Artisan Ice Cream: The Ice Cream
21 Cube Artisan Ice Cream: The Ice Cream
09 Sep 2015

21 Cube Artisan Ice Cream: The Ice Cream

Vanilla with Nutella ($4.90)

Apparently, this combo is a fave with customers and we can see why. The sight of vanilla ice cream beautifully marbled with swirls of the fragrant hazelnut chocolate spread is so pretty that you almost won’t mind that the ice cream mix isn’t rich or creamy enough. Almost. Besides, it’s quite pleasant to chomp down on the stiffened layers of cream and allow the flavours to melt on your tongue. Tip: you can’t pick up the rolls with your fingers as they melt too quickly — so use a spoon.

21 Cube Artisan Ice Cream: The Ice Cream
21 Cube Artisan Ice Cream: The Ice Cream
09 Sep 2015

21 Cube Artisan Ice Cream: The Ice Cream

Yakult with Lychee ($4.90)

Tastes like lychee martini minus the alcoholic kick. The ice cream is a little icier than we’d have liked and the flavour of the Yakult too subtle, but the tangy-sweet combination is refreshing. We also enjoy biting into juicy chunks of lychee as the ice cream melts.

21 Cube Artisan Ice Cream: The Ice Cream
21 Cube Artisan Ice Cream: The Ice Cream
09 Sep 2015

21 Cube Artisan Ice Cream: The Ice Cream

Chocolate with Kinder Bueno ($4.90)

The texture and flavour of the chocolate base isn’t as silky or robust as regular ice cream, but it’s passable, especially with the right mix-in — in this case, a bar of smashed Kinder Bueno. The chocolate-coated wafer and rich hazelnut filling adds a nice dimension to the ice cream and lifts it from meh to decent.

BOTTOM LINE: While it’s fun to watch these frozen rolls being ‘fried up’, they’re a bit like a prettier, but less premium version of what Cold Stone Creamery serves. Light-tasting at best, mediocre at worst.
 

3. Cha Thai
3. Cha Thai
09 Sep 2015

3. Cha Thai

80 TELOK AYER ST. S048466. OPEN DAILY 11AM-10PM. LAST ORDERS 9.30PM. WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/CHATHAISG

This chic, contemporary café accented with wooden furnishing and teeming with enthusiastic Thai service staff looks promising… at first glance. It’s set up by the team behind Loaves Me at SMU, one of the first cafes in Singapore to offer Shibuya-style brick toast here. However, besides toast, Cha Thai focuses more on “authentic Thai food”.

Thai co-owner Leah Sirijindapan, 32, says: “Most Thai eateries in Singapore aren’t run by trained chefs. They’re opened by Thai housewives who can cook. My all-Thai kitchen crew [comprises] professionally trained chefs”. What’s on offer here: a variety of Thai cuisine staples, but at prices that may make you baulk. “Our prices are high ’cos we use expensive ingredients. Instead of frozen prawns, we use fresh prawns,” explains Leah, who says the restaurant cost almost half a million dollars to set up.

Still, we’re not sure that warrants paying $22 for a plate of Pad Thai or $159 for a claypot of tiger prawns and glass noodles (feeds up to four people). There’s also a takeaway counter outside the eatery that sells selected items in smaller portions, at prices that are 10 per cent cheaper than those for dine-in.  

Cha Thai: The Food
Cha Thai: The Food
09 Sep 2015

Cha Thai: The Food

Grilled Kurobuta Pork ($28)

This is an elevated version of the common Thai street dish — ingredient-wise and price-wise. Served the traditional way with glutinous rice, the fatty grilled pieces of pork neck are fragrant and tender, although it could do with more smokiness. Goes very well with the tart tamarind dressing.

Cha Thai: The Food
Cha Thai: The Food
09 Sep 2015

Cha Thai: The Food

Creamy Crab Roll ($15)

A fun dish to share among friends, this deep-fried starter is the Thai version of bread sticks, and much yummier too. Eat it on its own or plunge the crisp spring roll sticks into the sweet and spicy creamy dip sprinkled with mud crabmeat.

Cha Thai: The Food
Cha Thai: The Food
09 Sep 2015

Cha Thai: The Food

Cha Thai Toast ($8)

To achieve a crisp crust on the outside and airy softness on the inside, the signature snack here is crafted with bread that’s baked locally using a “secret recipe”. It looks quite impressive when it first arrives, but the toast isn’t buttery enough and both the pandan and Thai tea custard dips are bland.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s not uncommon for Thai restaurants in Singapore to tone down some of their flavours to suit local palates, but if Cha Thai is going down the authentic route, then it’s puzzling why some of its dishes are blander than usual. All at rather steep prices, too. 

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