Sawadee Thai Cuisine may have moved into the shophouse unit at Tan Quee Lan Street (near Bugis Junction) only a few months ago, but this family-run restaurant has been serving up delicious Thai dishes at a Sembawang neighbourhood spot (opposite the popular Sembawang White Bee Hoon) for the last 15 years. Even though I stay in the northern part of Singapore, I'm happy that the current location is more centralized, making it easier for friends to meet up and enjoy a meal here together.
The look has gone much more upmarket and elegant, prices up a little but is still very affordable compared to other premium dining restaurants. What remains mostly the same is the repertoire of dishes that are cooked using home recipes handed down by the lady boss, which most of it has been fine-tuned over the years to suit local palates. I would describe the overall flavors as family and expatriates friendly, easily acceptable to majority of tastebuds.
It was a pleasant surprise to find Mieng Kham, Betel Leaf Wrap ($12/$18) on the menu, as it is seldom seen in most Thai restaurants here in Singapore. Though a traditional street snack in Thailand, my first taste of it was at an high-end restaurant in Bangkok. The unforgettable memory was rekindled in a flash!
The way to eat this appetizer is to put a bit of each condiment including dried shrimps, roasted peanuts, shredded coconut, lime, onion, ginger and chilli padi on a piece of betel leaf, topped it with the savory sauce, wrapped it up, send the entire parcel into the mouth and start chewing your way to happiness. Spicy, salty, sweet, zesty and crunchy all at once, the rapturous burst of combined flavors and textures is highly addictive. This is a must-try!
Another appetizer which is delightful to munch on is the Thai Rice Crackers Dip ($9/$14). The rice crackers is quite bland on its own but comes alive with a spread of minced chicken dip which was thick and creamy with an intense coconut milk flavor.
Served in a traditional clay plate, Sawadee's Thai Style Otah ($15) of delicious fish paste blended with coconut milk, Thai herbs and a hint of fish sauce was not only interesting in presentation, but enjoyable in taste. I liked its subtle spiciness and the firm, springy bite of the fish mousse.
Also to be expected on the menu are long time favorites such as spicy and sour Tom Yum Soup ($10/$15), Thai Green Curry ($12/$18), Phai Thai ($12/$18) and Pineapple Rice ($13/$18), as well as Crab Springrolls ($10/$15), deep-fried crispy rolls stuffed with crab meat and served with sweet chilli dipping sauce.
The Green Mango Salad ($10/$15) is thoughtfully prepared with both ripe and unripe mangoes, resulting in a refreshing pairing of contrasting textures. The sweetness and crunchiness was palatable but seasoning was somewhat muted. We wished for more boldness in the salad.
A dish which we all loved that evening was the Hearty Duck Curry ($15/$22). The vibrancy of its color was already very appetite inducing and even more so as we started digging in. Cooked in a delish gravy of chilli, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and coconut milk, the red curry with slices of roasted duck was further enhanced with the fruity sweetness of lychee and pineapple. Very lovely execution of a well-loved Thai dish.
The freshness of the Spicy Steamed Fish ($28) also had us finishing it to the bones. A whole sea bass is used, perfectly steamed to tenderness and just needed the classic Thai taste of spicy and sour sauce to accentuate its deliciousness.
My favorite dish of the evening turned out to be the plate of humble-looking Fried Fish Maw with Beansprouts ($12/$18). The fish maw was first cooked in chicken broth for a soft flavorful bite, before being stir-fried with eggs and beansprouts. It may sound like a simple dish, but the fluffiness and eggy aroma of the fish maw omelette paired with the crunchiness of beansprouts epitomized my idea of homely bliss on a plate. Definitely a must-order!
If you thought the chicken wings looked fat, it's only because it has been deboned and stuffed with chicken meat and shiitake mushrooms. Well-marinated with herb and spices, steamed to retain the juices and then deep-fried upon order, these Thai Stuffed Chicken Wings ($10/$15) were scrumptious little treats.
Sawadee's Olive Rice ($13/$18) came with chicken stripes and fried dried shrimps, a delectable rendition which garnered nods of approval from around the table.
A staple Thai dessert not to be missed is the Mango with Glutinous Rice ($6). Not only do we get the usual white sticky rice here, we also got the blueish-purple variant, colored from the natural hue of butterfly pea flowers. Other than mango, there was also the durian puree version which made my durian-loving dining companions rather happy.
Sawadee Thai cuisine is a casual restaurant with some unique offerings and superbly-executed dishes. Absolutely worth visiting!
Sawadee Thai Cuisine
Address: 9 Tan Quee Lan Street, #01-01, Singapore 188098
Contact: +65 6238 6833
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm