Thai street food in a chic setting
IT USED to be that if you wanted authentic Thai street food, you would have to jostle for it in gritty neighbourhood complexes. For similar flavours in a chic setting, there's now Long Chim by acclaimed Australian chef David Thompson.
The restaurant, whose name means "to try food", showcases Thailand's diverse gastronomic traditions. The country is a patchwork of historical kingdoms and ethnicities.
These communities have subtle palate differences, and their cooking styles rely on flavour memory sharpened by familiarity. This style seems to be chef Thompson's mastery.
His fine-dining Thai restaurant Nahm was awarded a Michelin star when it opened in London in 2001, serving old recipes scoured from around Thailand. It was crowned Asia's Best Restaurant last year - four years after moving to Bangkok - before dipping to seventh place this year.
In contrast, Long Chim is a casual spot serving street food in snazzy interiors inspired by Bangkok's streets. There's graffiti by Thai street artists and even a shrine to Buddha hanging from the ceiling. The latter is a reminder that this is not another soulless restaurant.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in its food. Long Chim nails the stir-fried minced beef with chillies and basil, paired with a fried egg on rice. It's a classic dish which straddles salty and spicy with a whiff of wok hei - the desirable burnt fragrance from cooking in a wok at high heat.
Then there's the Chiang Mai chicken larp, a meaty salad from north-western Thailand. Flavours there are stronger than in Bangkok and the salad is suitably tart from lime juice, spicy from bird's eye chilli, yet refreshing with chopped mint.
We also love the beef skewers marinated with cumin, coriander and turmeric - essentially satay without the sweetness.
These three well-executed examples provide a glimpse into the country's cultural heritage. While Thai chain restaurants are everywhere, we'll be skipping those to head straight to Long Chim instead.
Long Chim is at L2-02, Casino Atrium 2, Marina Bay Sands.