Bangkok, Thailand: Som Tam Nua, Siam Square

Some friends I know have restaurants they return to time and again be it in Singapore or other nearby cities they visit. So do I and Som Tam Nua in Bangkok’s very central Siam Square Soi 5 is one of the restaurants on my repeat visit list. I discovered this Isaan food gem together with my sisters early last year when they flew into Bangkok to visit me during an extended work trip.

For the uninitiated, Isaan is the northeastern region of Thailand and its food is largely influenced by the nearby Laos. Sticky rice accompanies every meal and dishes are usually spicy and pungent (in a good way!).

We came by on a Sunday, 15 minutes before Som Tam Nua’s opening time at 11am and there was already a queue starting to form. By 11.10am, the restaurant was almost full. Staff speak little to no English but no fear, sit yourselves, ask for the English menu, look out for all the items marked with a star and do the universal pointing language when you order.

If you’re a fan of fried chicken wings, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE order them here. These are really the bomb and there’s a fairly long waiting time for it as well so just go ahead and order the larger portion. No regrets, I promise.

The other outstanding dishes we always order are the fried fish, spicy minced pork salad (laab moo), tom yum soup, sticky rice and of course Som Tum! I’m salivating just thinking about the dishes. My sister also swears by the iced coffee which reminds us of just the way our first nanny made it for herself when she was with us two decades ago. We know only because she always snuck us some of it.

These fried chicken wings are honestly one of the best I’ve had! Must-must-order.

Another must-order. Fried fish doused in a fish sauce laced tangy lime dressing, topped with loads of raw onions, spring onions, mint leaves and chilli.

Laab Moo – a spicy minced pork salad. I can’t recall what it was called on the menu, but I just told the wait staff “laab-moo” and they got it.

Isaan sticky rice that come in little straw canisters.

Tom Yum soup with some fish slices and straw mushrooms. The Hubbs insisted on ordering a second helping.

Som Tum – a green papaya salad! A salad of rice vermicelli, shrimp, tomatoes, long beans, slices of green papaya and a sprinkling of toasted nuts.

Our nostalgic iced coffee 🙂

Som Tam Nua
392-14 Siam Square Soi 5 (Just keep walking along Soi 5; it’s a relatively short lane so you won’t miss it)
Open daily from 11am to 9pm

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Recipe: Root Beer Float Cake

Have you been on Pinterest? It’s amazing. It’s a treasure trove of goodness. It’s how I found this Root Beer Float Cake recipe. I finally got down to making it all by myself today. Usually my trusty hubbs will be my little slave in the kitchen when I bake, but today, he was out at work and I decided I was up for a little challenge.
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The Root Beer Float Cake recipe called for a bundt tin but I didn’t have one and decided to swop it with a tube pan with a removable bottom instead. It worked just as well. But here’s a little tip if you are using the same – place the tube pan on a tray before you pour in the batter and place both in the oven when you’re done. The batter is very loose and might leak (mine did but just a little!). Another tip I have for all noob tube pan users like me is to set the oven rack lower when you start heating up the oven. The tube pan is pretty tall, so it’s very unlikely to fit into the oven if your rack is slotted in the middle of the oven to begin with.

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I would also recommend you start boiling the root beer, butter and cocoa powder mixture in a larger heavy bottom pot/pan so that you can fold your flour mixture into it. The less you have to wash, the better! I started with a fairly mid-size one and had to be really careful when I was folding the flour mixture into the wet mixture.

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You can also make a Root Beer frosting to go with the cake if you want but I’m personally not a huge fan of frosting and I reckon a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be more than good enough! I adore the crackly top of the cake which I presume comes with baking it in a tube pan ’cause I don’t see this in the photos from where I took the recipe from. The cake has got a subtle root beer flavour and is a moist, rich chocolate cake fit for the weekend.

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Root Beer Float Cake Recipe adapted from here:

2 cups root beer (do not use diet root beer)
1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup (115 grammes) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cups granulated sugar (The original recipe indicated 1¼ cups but I prefer my treats less sweet. 3/4 cup worked just fine)
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda (Personally think there was just a little too much baking soda. I would reduce it to 1 teaspoon the next time I bake this.)
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F*. Butter your bundt tin or tube pan generously with butter and dust with flour, shaking out the excess flour and set aside.

2. In a large heavy bottom saucepan or pot, heat the root beer, cocoa powder and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Using a large pot means you will have room to fold your flour mixture into the cocoa mixture later.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until just beaten, then whisk them into the cooled cocoa mixture until combined. Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture. The batter will be slightly lumpy, which is okay and don’t be alarmed, it is a really loose/wet batter. Also, do not overbeat it, as it could result in a tough cake.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a small sharp knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Using a tube pan, my baking time was roughly 45-50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack.

6. Serve warm with a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream.

*Note: If you are using a dark, nonstick pan, heat the oven to 300 degrees F.

 

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Bangkok, Thailand: Or Tor Kor Market

I’m not sure how many of you already know about Or Tor Kor Market also known as Aw Taw Kaw Market in Bangkok. Because if I’m really the last one to know, how come no one was sharing this with me before?? So this post is for the benefit of those who don’t have a clue what/where that is and like me, didn’t know what we were missing out on at Or Tor Kor Market.

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A colleague had casually mentioned Or Tor Kor Market to me when she knew I was headed for Bangkok. Truth be told, when she said the word “market”, all I could think of was unsanitised, wet, grimy markets with narrow lanes. Clearly, I’m scarred by the wet markets in Singapore in the 90s. After reassurances that Or Tor Kor Market was nothing like that, I decided to give it a go.

Honestly, it made so much sense heading there for breakfast anyway because guess where Or Tor Kor is located? Diagonally opposite the famous Jatujak Market in Bangkok. Yes, so close to the Jatujak Market which most of us head for when we’re in the city! How could I have missed out on this gem for so many years?

Or Tor Kor Market is housed in a super clean airy complex. It is, like my colleague reassured, extremely clean. In fact, it might put some of our markets to shame. One half of the Market sells Bangkok’s highest quality produce like mangoes, durians, dried goods and snacks, where I ended up buying hae kor (prawn paste), tapioca chips and dried longans. The other half houses the cooked food area where we gravitated towards immediately. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves but everything we had was delicious, fresh and from stalls’ which had more than decent hygiene standards. This is any foodie’s haven and its proximity to my favourite Jatujak market places Or Tor Kor Market firmly on my must-go places in Bangkok.

Getting there:
Or Tor Kor Market is also known as Aw Taw Kaw Market (to help you pronounce it, every word rhymes with the word ‘raw’)
MRT: Kampheng Phet Station, take the exit marked Marketing Association of Farmers. You should exit and see the entrance of the market.
Alternatively, just take a cab.

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Bangkok, Thailand: Sukhumvit Soi 38, Best Mango Sticky Rice

Tonight, I’m dreaming of the best mango sticky rice on earth. This ubiquitous Thai dessert is taken to a whole new level at Sukhumvit Soi 38. One generous whole fresh mango paired with a fistful of glutinous rice drowned in luscious thick sweet and salty coconut milk. What makes this extra special is a sprinkling of crunchy bits much alike rice krispies. I’m sorry I can’t quite figure out what it is, but I assure you the combination of a sweet silky slice of mango, sticky rice, salty coconut cream and the crunch from those yellow bits is magical and heavenly.

mango sticky rice

Get off Thong Lo BTS and head for the exit that leads to the even numbered streets. The street is close to the BTS and you will spot street food stalls right at the start of the street. Head down the street, this dessert stall is amongst the first few stalls on the right housed in a little enclave. Order, grab a seat in the enclave (which is oddly right next to a carpark) and salivate while you wait. It’s amazing how much happiness 60 baht can buy you on Sukhumvit Soi 38.

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We also ordered this plate of oyster omelette which didn’t disappoint while waiting for dessert to arrive. A generous amount of oysters with scrambled eggs on a bed of al dente beansprouts. Lighter than the usual kind we are used to in Singapore and I’m guessing a slightly healthier version too. Order it from the lady opposite the mango sticky rice stall.

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Bangkok, Thailand: Let Them Eat Cake

I love Bangkok. I love the people who always have a smile on their face, the joint crackin’ massages, sweating it out in jatujak market and discovering quirky creative pieces and of course, what I like most is the cuisine. Thai dishes are an explosion of spicy, sweet and tangy flavours. Hearty but never heavy; nuanced and never bland. Everyone’s possibly got restaurants and hawkers they make a habit of returning every single time they visit and I think we have found them this trip. I will get down to writing about those places we ate at but since my fellow countrymen are currently cafe crazy (and I mean both at visiting them and setting them up) I thought I would first share this gem at Sukhumvit called Let Them Eat Cake.

Bangkok, alike Singapore, is possibly experiencing a surge of new cafe set ups. There were many places that came up during a quick google but I decided I could only make time (and space on the waistline) for this one. Let Them Eat Cake, which looks like a toned down version of Singapore’s Antoinette, is on the relatively quiet Sukhumvit Soi 20. We came by on a Sunday afternoon and all the 30-35 seats indoors were taken, so we were promptly shown seats in the outdoor area. Service staff kindly obliged to sit us indoors once a party was done. The outdoor seats were actually really nice but we chose air-conditioned comfort over the heat. The menu is a succinct selection of teas, coffees, chocolate drinks and wine. As for desserts, a selection of about ten are right at the front counter.

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We ordered the Thai Tea Tart, a La Rose, a latte and a cold chocolate drink to start. The Thai Tea Tart (135 baht) was the only fusion dessert on the menu.

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Chai yen flavours in the tart came through in the mousse. Every component was chai yen flavoured – from the ganache, to the glaze, to even the two mini blocks of Thai Tea jelly that sat pretty on the tart. If you look carefully, there’s also a genoise biscuit (pre -soaked in Thai tea syrup) that’s embedded within the mousse. Fans of the popular Thai beverage should definitely pick this.

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The second dessert we tried was called the La Rose (135 baht). Rose bavarois cream is set atop an almond dacquoise biscuit in the shape of a rose no less. Hidden in the middle is a ball of jellified raspbery coulis which tasted like an raspberry sorbet. La Rose was definitely a winner. We really liked the subtle gentle rose cream coupled with a refreshing hit of raspberry.

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My sister, Y, was so impressed with the desserts that she egged us to order a third dessert to share. We’re all fans of passionfruit and it only made sense that the third would be the La Passion. This was pretty similar to the La Rose – passionfruit mousse on a layer of almond dacquoise with a strip of jellified raspberry coulis within, topped with some crispy bits of raspberry. Absolutely no complaints with this one too.

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I know most people rush through Bangkok trying to shop and eat as much as they can especially so when it’s a short weekend getaway. If you do actually have some time to spare, or would prefer to take it slow for a change, Let Them Eat Cake would be a great patisserie to slot into your plans. They also open till midnight on Friday and Saturday but I’m guessing you would need to make a prior reservation.

Let Them Eat Cake
G floor Mille-Malle, Sukhumvit Soi 20, Bangkok
(If you’re taking a cab and coming in from Sukhumvit road, keep telling the driver to go straight until you see Mille-Malle building on your right side)
+66 2 663 4667
Mon-Thurs, Sun: 10am-11pm
Fri-Sat: 10am-12midnight

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Berlin, Germany: Burgermeister, Kreuzberg

I value time alot more when we travel. While there are times I don’t mind going out of the way for food, most times, I make it a point to seek out good spots just around the areas where I would be visiting and work those into the itinerary. To me, it beats spending time on commuting to and fro locations and allows me more time to enjoy the city better.

Burgermeister was one of those places I knew I could work into the itinerary easily. It is close by to the East Side Gallery which is the longest part of the Berlin Wall left). A late morning in Berlin could start off with a jaunt down the Gallery (start off at the Ostbahnhof S-Bahn, walk towards the river for about 8-10 minutes till you hit the wall; you won’t miss it), stroll along the walls filled with art till you hit the Oberbaumbrucke bridge on your right. Cross the bridge, and while doing so, look out for the Molecule Men on the river. Once you get past the bridge, look up ahead towards the right for the U-bahn tracks. Follow them for about 5 minutes till you see Burgermeister, which is literally just below the tracks.

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Cute trabi spotted just in front of Burgermeister

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The counter to place your order

Burgermeister has a super casual and fuss-free vibe. You either stand around to eat, perch yourself on a high bar, or sit on their very cool crate-chairs.

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Meet Burgermeister’s Chilli Cheeseburger (3.80 euros)! Thick juicy beef patty, with cheese, tomato, lettuce and jalapenos.

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Pardon the bite marks, but I’m sure you wanted to see the cross-section. Oh, not pictured, but there are bottles of tabasco for use on the table if you needed that extra kick.

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We also ordered a plate of cheese fries (1.90 euros) and an icy cold fritz-limo cola to wash it all down. If you’re wondering why this is all we had, it’s because we had a pretty filling breakfast at Oliv Cafe.

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Fritz-limo, a brand under Hamburg’s Fritz-kola, comes in many flavours. This particular flavour we had was cloudy sparkling apple, which is carbonated water mixed with apple juice. It’s also called Apfelschorle or AppelSaftSchorle in German, and turns out is a super popular beverage in the country.

Apparently Fritz-limo uses only real juice and none of the chemical crap. Both A and I loved it! In fact, we were trying to hunt it down in supermarkets thereafter and just couldn’t find this particular brand.  So if you like it, try a couple more flavours that are available at Burgermeister.

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Burgermeister’s concise menu features a handful of burgers including the good old hamburger and a BBQ burger. My bets are any of those would be just as good as the cheeseburger we had.

Burgermeister,
Oberbaumstraße 8, 10997 Berlin
U1 Schlesisches Tor
Mon to Thur 11am-2am
Fri and Sat 11am-4am
Sun 3pm-2am

– S

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