We’ll admit it, regardless of when our last trip to Thailand was, there’ll always be a part of us that misses the Land of Smiles. As much as we’re always ready to head over for a revitalising trip there, many of us don’t get to fly over as often as we’d like. As such, we’ve contented ourselves with the plethora of Thai food and experiences available on this island. And while we’re definitely no stranger, Chef de Cuisine Lisa of Sarai – a contemporary Thai fine dining restaurant – is ready to show us a different and much lesser-known side of Thailand’s culinary offerings.
We caught up with her to find out more.
Thailand and Thai food have always held a special place in the hearts of Singaporeans. As a Chef, is there a lesser-known part of Thai cuisine that you’d like to highlight to our readers?
There are many different types of cuisines within Thailand to embrace. With the menus I craft, I aim to showcase the ingredients from my home in the countryside of Northeast Thailand. We call it Isaan Thai, and it is where we were taught that natural ingredients are at the forefront of how food is flavoured. In itself, Isaan Thai is a really unique cuisine and I hope it offers a new side for Singaporeans to experience.
What’s the major difference between Thai fine dining and conventional Thai food that we find in most places?
The major difference lies in the details. The taste between them is different because the core ingredients they select are different. Thai fine dining sources for the finest ingredients to showcase in its dishes, and the ability to highlight each ingredient for a specific texture and taste is very important. On top of that, plating and presentation are also emphasised with fine dining, something that is comparatively less pronounced with conventional Thai food.
Could you enlighten us on what to look out for between the food of different Thai regions?
Thai food in the North and South apply different techniques. In the South, they use more coconut milk as the main ingredient in a variety of dishes. They also use a lot of spices, which means the dishes are mainly very spicy and is the most common type of Thai food we see here in Singapore.
Food from the North tends to be more savoury, as sugar is not as usually used in their seasoning. With Isaan, we mainly use sticky rice and fermented fish as our key ingredients. Isaan cooking also favours spices in our seasoning, so there’s a degree of spice as well.
Sarai showcases a very different menu from our usual Thai experiences, could you share more on what diners can expect?
Our tagline is “Rediscovering Thai Cuisine”, which is very true to the experience we offer. Our diners can expect unique and refreshing takes on traditional Thai dishes. We also carefully select raw ingredients that are more uncommon in Singapore so we can share more flavour profiles for Singaporeans to explore.
To name a few, we have Yum Pak, a sweet fern salad with tamarind palm sugar dressing as an uplifting starter, Gaeng Jued Ped, a hearty roasted duck soup with young coconut and shiitake mushroom to warm your stomach, Pad Nam Prik Goong Siap, which is juicy stir-fried pork collar with dried shrimp paste relish, and Gaeng Raweng Nuea, a dry green curry with beef and white turmeric.
In your opinion, how would you define the differences between classical Thai food and modern Thai cuisine?
I feel that Modern Thai dining approaches classic Thai flavours with a more interesting and thoughtfully fun perspective. Because of that, I find that it is more easily curated to suit the taste buds of different individuals as compared to the more traditional methods and tastes.
We understand that Sarai aims to present unique and fresh Thai dining experiences seasonally – what are some must-try dishes for foodies exploring Thai cuisine?
I would recommend trying the starter, Mieng Mak, which is lime and wild ginger wrapped in betel leaves and the sweet fern salad, Yum Pak. They should also try the Tom Klong Pla, a spicy smoked fish soup made with toothfish and sweet leaf bush, as well as our Pla Hmug Nung Ma Naw, which is steamed squid stuffed with roe sac and served with chilli lime garlic sauce.
To find out more about Sarai and their amazing Thai creations, head over to their website here.