The holidays have rolled up – have you made your travel plans? If you are stuck here, fret not, because you can enjoy cuisines from overseas here in the comfort of Singapore as well (and save those extra cash from having to travel)! For today’s Munchy Monday, we bring you to Som Tam, a modern Thai Fusion restaurant, located at Orchard Central, and Wrap & Roll, a Vietnamese restaurant serving pretty authentic rice rolls that are just delectable?
Ready? Read on!
by Rin Yeo
Having just opened their doors in September 2015, Som Tam is a subsidiary from Thai restaurant Gin Khao, and is tucked away at a corner at Orchard Central, across from Kiseki restaurant. Som Tam, which means green papaya salad in Thai, is a prominent dish in the country too, and in this case, is naturally a signature dish at this restaurant. Priding themselves to being one of the first Thai fusion restaurants here in Singapore, the fusion aspect comes across strongly as you step into the place – right from the feel and look of their menu to the taste of their dishes, where “East meets West” elements clearly comes together on a single plate.
As they are named after the salad, it is therefore a given that we had to try this. Served as a light and refreshingly salad, this experience was pretty much an interactive one as we get to be hands-on in tossing our own salad, sans the mess. In most restaurants, som tam is tossed prior in a mortar and pestle, and patrons are pretty hand-off on the process. However at this restaurant, the ingredients such as the shredded green papaya, tomato, roasted chunky peanut bits etc are all placed into a jar, in which you can add dried shrimps, palm sugar syrup and salted eggs as you wish and then shake it after. This makes it an unique experience of eating som tam, as it is has your own personal touch, given how you can add condiments to it according to your own taste and preference!
With the hype of truffle fries at its peak everywhere, Som Tam aims to differ themselves by having its own twist – adding in-house made Tom Yum seasoning to the otherwise common fries. While we understand that a concern normally raised about truffle fries is that the scent is mild or not very distinctly present in the fries, the ones we had had the flavouring of Tom Yam and truffle oil equally distributed throughout. Done with vigorous tossing of the fries instead of just adding the truffle oil on top, this ensures that every single shoestring fry is coated with the necessary flavours and to just a nice amount as well.
Krapow Gai, which translates to Thai basil chicken, is a fairly common and well-known street food in Thailand. Here at Som Tam, they have upped the notch on the common staple of Thailand to combine it with another staple – that of America’s which is the burger. As such, what you get is a towering burger, consisting of basil marinated chicken thigh meat – flame-grilled to crispiness, topped with egg, and cheddar, on a bed of shredded vegetable and tomato, all within two toasted slices of buttered buns.
The layers of ingredients is perfect in our opinion, as you get a progression in terms of taste going from light to heavy and back to light and refreshing. Best to have while it’s piping hot, the chicken will slowly lose it’s tenderness and juiciness if you leave it to cool for far too long. The toasted buns here gave a nice crunch in addition to the crispy chicken, and the butter lends a slight saltiness to the burger. However, the butter may be overpowering at times, so if you prefer something less salty, do let the service staff know beforehand, and they will gladly cater to your wants! Likewise can be side for the vegetables too, if you like a drier feel for your burgers.
Infused with green curry, this was another perfect example of East meets West. Garnished with pan-fried curry leaves, boiled vegetables such as Thai green brinjals, carrots and long beans, the thick green curry was of a creamy and smooth consistency that coated the pasta evenly. Should you worry about being overwhelmed by the richness of the green curry, you’ll be put at ease, as the fresh vegetables present in this dish provided a clean and sweet change in-between your bites of the pasta. Unlike the common Tom Yum pasta, which can be found in most cafes and restaurants these days, this dish was a uniquely pleasant change, and for those who like their pasta heavy, the green curry sauce definitely packs more flavour that any other types of bases. One thing to note too: This comes in a huge portion, and is definitely perfect for sharing for two.
As an accompaniment to what we had, we ordered the Thai iced tea and the Matcha yen as we were curious as how this will fare about joints that solely specializes in them. In comparison to some of the ones we had before, the Thai iced tea here at Som Tam is not as milky, although what was good was that it wasn’t too sweet and was really silky in texture. Most Thai iced teas would be overbearingly sweet, despite the reassurance that they have cut down on the sugar level as compared to that of Thailand’s. Based on recommendation, we too decided to try the Iced Thai Matcha Yen, topped with whipped cream which is uncommon even here in Singapore as milk works as a substitute instead. The additional topping here creates a adds a foamy and light mouthfeel to the drink, similar to that of Japanese chado green tea. However, in this case, the green tea is much milder and is of a much cleaner taste than the Japanese green tea counterpart.
You can be forgiven to think that this is the same “After you” toast from a famous joint in Bangkok, but other than sharing a same name, this dessert is vastly different and unique to the restaurant. The thick, buttery toast is accompanied with your choice of gelato, and served with whipped cream and palm sugar syrup. Among the usual flavours of chocolate and vanilla, there are unique hidden gems like green curry flavour and Thai milk tea, whereby the former may only sit well with the adventurous, or those with an acquired palate. As we already tried green curry in the pasta and had Thai iced milk tea for drinks, we decided to go with the other flavour that jumps out to us on the menu – that of Thai basil with chocolate chips, which was quite a tease on the senses. At first glance, you might just mistake it for mint chocolate chip ice cream, and in fact your senses may be in preparation for something that is minty and refreshingly, but, upon your first spoonful, the taste is most certainly worlds apart. Slightly tart and with the strong aroma of Thai basil, this might be too overwhelming for some but the chocolate chips balance out the flavour with a hint of sweetness. The firm toast soaks up any melted gelato nicely, which melds the flavours of sweet and salty nicely together. Of course, if you are stuffed by now, you could order just a scoop of gelato, and that would most definitely end off the meal nicely acting as a palate cleanser.
Minimalistic with futuristic lights and sleek white table tops, the interior is stylish and chic, keeping it simple but cosy. With full-length windows that allow natural sunlight to stream into the restaurants, it creates a warm and uplifting mood for diners, along with cheery and soothing Thai music that plays softly in the background.
The prices are pretty mid-range for a eatery here in downtown Orchard, as most of the dishes sold here are between $8 – $20, but as the portions are huge (for the two of us, we felt that what we had eaten could have fed three!), it is definitely worth the money as you can spread the cost across if you are here in a group!
Som Tam Modern Thai Fusion
181 Orchard Road, #08-13
Opening hours: 11.30am – 3.00pm, 5.30pm-10.00pm
Wrap and Roll
by Rin Yeo
From a single outlet at the Star Vista where they first started 3 years ago, to the 4 outlets that are located across Singapore to date, Wrap & Roll has come a long way in bringing classic Vietnamese dishes to us here, and with no-frills attached too. A home brand for over 10 years in Vietnam, they are also the first and only Vietnamese restaurant to offer freshly steamed rice paper rolls, and the ingredients are specially imported as well to maintain the authenticity of the dishes – just as how you would get it in Vietnam itself.
First up, we tried the Christmas Platter, which consists of appetisers on the menu such as lotus shoot salad, deep fried spring rolls, and steamed rice crepe rolls in the flavour of prawn and pork, grilled pork, vegetarian, and cured Chinese sausages respectively. Currently, this platter comes with a free scoop of ice cream as well. There are two pieces for each of the sides, as this is great for those who may find one not quite filling enough or for sharing between 2 or more people.
Starting with the lotus shoot salad, we felt that this is a relatively fresh take on most people’s perception of the lotus, which more commonly has the root being featured in dishes. Unlike the root, which tends to be slimy and relatively crunchy, the lotus shoots were slightly softer and not at all slimy, pickled with a sourish-sweet ting from the fish sauce and sugar present in the sauce. Together, the flavours were very well-complimented and tantalising, as it gets your stomach rumbling for more food.
In terms of the fresh spring rolls, which has Thai basil and mint leaves in each and every roll, the prawn and pork version had a pleasantly clean taste, whereas the cured Chinese sausages were sweeter and much chewier due to the slices of meat. The grilled pork by far was the most interesting in terms of taste profile, with hints of lemongrass being quite prominently evidently felt.
Each appetiser is paired to a single dip, and a denser sauce is paired with fillings that are lighter in terms of taste, whereas lighter ones are paired for those heavier in taste, creating a balance of flavours. For instance, the thick peanut sauce went with the prawn and pork roll, and a clear liquid fish sauce dip was paired to the deep-fried spring roll. Each pairing is on a spectrum of their own, as the flavour of each dip, depending on the flavour of the filling, further enhances the roll that it was coupled with, and this is done based on the same concept as per that of Vietnam’s side.
If pre-rolled rolls aren’t to your liking, Wrap & Roll offers the ‘roll-it-yourself’ version as well, allowing diners to get personal and interactive with their own food. However, rather than being given a bowl of water to soak the rice paper in as per how they do it traditionally, a spray bottle was given to us instead, which makes it easier and much more fuss-free in comparison.
A signature on their menu, we had the grilled beef in vine leaves. To get the rice paper to soften, the whole piece will have to be squirted with water, to ensure that it is flexible enough to hold all the ingredients. Based on the plate of ingredients given, which includes lettuce, Thai basil, rice noodles and star fruit slices. The star fruit slices gave the combination a nice crunch, together with the chewy and juicy meat and adding more flavour due to the distinct taste of the fruit. There are instructions in the form of the placemats on the table, so if you are unsure of how to do it, you could feel free to refer to it.
Made of slices of tender pork meat, marinated and grilled to a charred and crispy texture, the thin slices went really well with the fish sauce dip when you have it wrapped up in the roll, as nothing comes too overbearingly strong in terms of taste or texture. When the meat is eaten on it’s on without anything sauce, you can taste the sweetness and slight herbs that went into the marination of it. In addition to that, unlike the grilled beef in vine leaves above, the ingredients pairing came with pickled carrots and radishes instead, which gave it a slightly sweeter taste due to the pickled vegetables.
Only available at ION Orchard, and marinated overnight with turmeric and galangal, the fish is served on a hotplate atop a bed of fresh dill, and is cut into bite-size pieces as well. Boneless, tender and juicy, the fish can be eaten either on it’s own, wrapped up in a roll, or even on a piece of cracker. Do pair this with the chilli provided too, as the slight fieriness gives you a nice jolt in senses.
Though ‘ban pho’ is more commonly served in the soupy version, in Hanoi you will find plenty of this alternative stir-fried version which we have tried at Wrap & Roll. A recommended dish on the menu, the ‘ban pho’, or rice noodles, have a nice and chewy texture to it, and a slight ‘umami’ flavour that is subtle in the dish. Looking and tasting somewhat like the Chinese ‘hor fun’ that we are well-acquainted with, it grabs the gravy much better in comparison instead. A generous serving of tender chicken and fresh vegetables on the plate also means that essentially this is a very balanced meal to have on it’s on.
With a full-sized sumptuous-looking soft-shell crab placed neatly on a lovely bed of vegetables, which include beansprouts and sliced cucumber, this dish is a relatively easy-on-the-palate dish, despite the initial misconception that it would be oily due to the deep-fried aspect of the crab. Accompanied by a small bowlful of fish sauce, you would be missing out on the best possible way to eat this if you do not pour the fish sauce over! The hint of saltiness further accentuates the sweetness of the crab’s flesh, while at the same time provided an extra flavour for the chewy vermicelli.
We were drawn by the terms “salted egg pudding” on the menu, given the hype for salted egg everything these days. From what we understand however, this is a relatively common dish in Vietnam. Mixed with minced meat and mushrooms, half a salted egg lies in the middle of this pudding, which is accompanied by pork chop and white rice. The seasoning for the pork chop is slightly sweet, but not too much such that it is overbearing, thus going well with the savoury egg yolk.
Brewed daily every morning, each glass of the Vietnamese chrysanthemum tea comes with a small flower and a thin slice of lime by the side, clearly showing the authenticity of ingredients being used to the diners. The floral scent is very evident in this glassful as well, even after the ice had all melted, which was something we found to be surprisingly as you would expect it to be diluted and perhaps masked by the water with time. Apparently, the variety of chrysanthemum used here is of the yellow variety, which is said to be beneficial to the human body in building up resistance to flu symptoms and headaches too!
Upon your order, the wait staff will pour the hot water into the drip filter prior to serving, hence making it an interesting experience for you to watch as the coffee slowly drips downwards and into the cup. The aroma strikes us as uplifting, and you can detect the roasted texture from when the hot water hits the coffee. For those who like your coffee strong, you could request for it without the condensed milk that sits at the base of the cup, although from what we understand, the milk is there to create a fuller and rounder taste to the coffee by bringing out the sweetness of the brew. A relatively interesting experience if you ask us, as we are usually very used to instant coffee and not having to wait for about 5 minutes just to drink a cup!
Moving on to the desserts, the warm sweet mung beans & taro with coconut cream was one of our choices, as it looked similar to a classic local dessert known as the tau suan. Relatively similar in terms taste as well, the differences lies in the fact that it had coconut cream and cubes of yam added in it, and the local version is merely served with youtiao or fried dough sticks only. As such, what you get is a richer taste profile due to the coconut cream, and more bite to it due to the yam.
A firm and springy jelly, this dessert is prepared freshly once in two days and using fresh coconut juice and cream only. Topped with a layer of jellied coconut cream, the clear bottom portion is made up of coconut juice and contains real coconut flesh as well. A dessert that taste as a fresh as a coconut, minus the need to hack or scrape one to get all the goodness within!
Looks can deceive you, but we are certain the scent won’t! Made from the juice of young ginger, as the spiciness level isn’t very high in this ice cream, the Vietnamese ginger ice cream looks innocently akin to vanilla ice cream, but it is the strong smell of ginger that wafted to our noses which told us that it was really wasn’t. A great palate-cleanser, the creaminess isn’t too thick, and the taste of ginger was strong but not overwhelmingly so, thus giving your mouth a nice refresher as you end off your meal on.
Decked in yellow, orange and green which are the colours of Wrap & Roll, all outlets retain the same colour scheme in uniformity. With cushioned stall seats to provide private dining for small groups and for families, the place makes a great place to go to with its homely and welcoming vibe. For the ION Orchard branch, traditional conical hats are used in the form of overhead lightning, thus providing a strong Vietnamese vibe to the entire eatery.
For a restaurant located in ION Orchard, the prices are competitive as they provided the fillings for the wraps free-flow (none for the meat however!). With specially flown-in ingredients and sauces, this also means that there is no need for you to fly especially to Vietnam for authentic Vietnamese cuisine as well. Currently too, there are promotions for students too, starting from $6 for their branches at The Star Vista, One@Kentridge and Changi City Point. Recently, they have also been awarded the Best Asian Chain Restaurant 2015.
Wrap & Roll Vietnamese Cuisine (ION Orchard)
2 Orchard Turn, #B3-19
ION Orchard, Singapore 238801
Opening hours: Mon – Sun: 10am – 10pm
We are giving away 5 x sets of Mains, courtesy of Som Tam!
1. Like our #MunchyMonday facebook post.
2. Tell us: What would you like to try from Som Tam!
PS: Stay tuned to Instagram tomorrow for our giveaway from Wrap & Roll!