Musings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

When the taste of soya sauce becomes mundane, I find my taste buds hankering for Thai food where the medley of fish sauce, fresh lime, lemongrass and fresh cut chillies inevitably injects my jaded palate with renewed vigor and I am ready for a fresh bout of “foodie-ism”.

With my ever ready Foodie guide Ginla Chew by my side and a new recruit in the person of Malathi Rama who happens to live in Seri Botani and who knows the best eats in that area, we descended on Sawasdee Thai restaurant, armed with our insatiable appetites and a yearning for the tang of Thai.

I went on two occasions in order to sample a fuller range of dishes. Opened and helmed by Thai Chef Ah Eng (a Chinese nickname probably given to her by her husband) the restaurant is a fan-cooled corner shop on Jalan Lapangan Siber 10, just off the main road of Seri Botani. Both times I went into the kitchen to plead with Ah Eng to lay off on the MSG which is so ubiquitous in food these days. As I am prone to bloating and severe oedema of my legs and ankles after ingestion of MSG, I stressed to her how toxic this was to my system (and to most people’s system as it is a neurotoxin and cumulative-a fact that most people choose to ignore!)

As it was, the dishes that were served had no need for MSG (which makes me wonder why so many restaurants use it almost unconsciously and to think that even Indian restaurants with all their delectable mix of spices will use it!) The fresh squeezed lime, fresh cut chillies, shallots, lemongrass, cilantro and garlic provide just the right mouth-drooling appeal to the salads or “Yum” dishes which it is called in Thai. Noteworthy and ‘must haves’ include the Yum Woon Sen or glass noodle salad topped with generous helpings of blanched fresh squid and coriander sprigs – RM10; the Yum Green Mango topped with crispy fried ikan bilis or dried anchovies – RM7; and the yummy (pun intended) Nam Tok which is a sliced pork salad tossed in an inimitable fish sauce laced with dry fried rice granules, red chilli flakes, shallots, lime juice and a dash of sugar – one of my all time favourite dishes whenever I go to Thailand – RM12.

Then we come to the hot dishes. Naturally no Thai meal is complete without the irresistible Tom Yam Koong or spicy soup with prawns. This requires a bit more skill to produce without the benefit of MSG but this she did admirably, the soup tart, searing and tempered with some sugar (which is always inevitable whenever you request for no-MSG). The prawns were medium sized and fresh, the oyster mushrooms lending texture and tomatoes imparting its characteristic flavours to the soup. Of course no Tom Yum soup is complete without the added flavours of kaffir lime leaves, galangal and lemongrass. Served in steamboat tureens with real charcoal keeping the soup warm completes the Thai authenticity – RM22.

Fresh fish of the day can be cooked any style. I chose steamed red snapper with garlic and lime and the usual garniture on the first visit – RM24 and a Siakap which was fried and served with a Gaeng Som sauce which is the Thai equivalent of our Asam except that the vegetables used are cauliflower and long beans, on the second – RM40. Both fish were fresh and delectable.

Again, no Thai meal is complete without the pandan leaf wrapped chicken and the green curry. Here at Sawasdee, they do both to perfection. The Pandan Chicken was well marinated and succulent to the last bite – RM10, while the Green Curry was smooth, with a thick gravy, redolent with the fragrance of fresh coconut milk with a hint of chillies – RM12.

Finally, we finished off with Pineapple Fried Rice which came fluffy, each grain of rice separate and not a bit oily, the pineapple chunks lending a touch of crunch and sweetness to the whole dish – RM4.50.

All in all, this is a Thai restaurant that does not disappoint. Every dish is cooked fresh and every dish is tasty with its own unique flavours. This is one place I would return to again and again.

Restoran Sawasdee
37 Jalan Lapangan Siber 10, 31350 Bandar Siber, Perak
Off Persiaran Lapangan Siber (main road)
N 04º 32.578’  E 101º 06.687’
Business hours: 12.30pm-10pm.  Closed two days a month.
Tel: 016 562 6448