Thai cuisine in Singapore is generally a creation of comfortable flavours from central Thailand, with a mild, subtly sweet and flavourful play of spices and fresh herbs in each dish. My most memorable Thai restaurant thus far has been at KHA Martin 38, whose adventure into the regional Thai brings about fresh new flavours that almost shocking and awe inspiring. However, for something that is more homely and palatable to the local tastebuds and at family friendly prices, Joo Chiat’s latest restaurant Rochor Thai will seek to please. My journey to the restaurant was not the easiest, and I had to walk a fair distance after alighting at the bus stop across Holy Family Church. But after walking in the sweltering heat, the cooling respite from some lemongrass drink and iced Thai tea simply made my day.
The first drink served, Nam Tak Krai Kab Bai Toey, was a special concoction of lemongrass and pandan extract prepared for the meal. Served chilled, with refreshing ice cubes to crystallise the flavour, this was exceptionally delightful after a hot day. This is currently not on the menu, but I’ve put in a special request to have it there. It is definitely a drink to be enjoyed, and will complement well with the dishes throughout the meal.
Also special for the day is the amuse bouche of Kanom Jeen Sao Nam, made from cold thick bee hoon noodles spiced with floss and herbs. Refreshing to the bite, with light savoury flavours playing on the tongue, whetting the appetite even further.
First up, the table was served Som Tum (Central Thai Papaya Salad $6.80). The portion of julienned papaya, carrots, crushed peanuts, and bits of chilli padi looked inviting. There was good texture and a step of crunch in each bite, followed with flows of fruity sweetness, the smoky savoury sauce and then the mild spice from the chilli.
The Cha Yen or Thai Iced Milk Tea was a refreshing serve. I’m unsure if this was ceylon or black tea, but I did note the tea subtle smoky fragrance accentuated with evaporated milk to give that creamy and luxurious texture. It wasn’t too sweet, though personally I’d prefer a glass of iced water or lemongrass drink any day.
Three different varieties of soups were served up for the lunch. The Tomyam Talay (Hot and Spicy Seafood Soup with Thai Herbs $8.80) was richer in flavour with the chilli oil adding a visual spice, though not necessarily as spicy as the clear variant. The seafood ingredients were fresh and generous, adding to the deep satisfying flavour in the dish.
For a more robust offering, choose the Gaeng Kaew Wan Gai (Green Curry Chicken Thigh $11.80). The coconut base in this dish was an excellent complement with Thai Jasmine rice. A little sweet, creamy with the tender notes of savoury chicken and basil immersed all about. Give me this, with a bowl of rice and I will be well and happy for lunch.
The other soup, the Po Taek (Clear Spicy Sour Soup with Holy Basil and Kaffir Lime Leaves $8.80) is the stronger flavoured and more startling brother from the Tomyam Talay. The clear soup is decently spicy and tangy with hints of sweetness from the seafood, a tinge of freshness from the basil and fragrance from the kaffir lime leaves. On a cold day, this would be the perfect comfort food.
A dish to share around the table is the Gaeng Phet Pla Krapong Daeng (Dry Red Curry with Snapper Fillets $11.80). The red curry as I know it is kept to its thick paste and stir fried with battered pieces of snapper. The dish’s fresh vegetable sweetness within the curry sauce lends a touch of earthy class to the fish, bringing out its flavour and leaving a hearty mouthful after each bite.
The Hoay Lai Pad Prik Pao (Clams Flambe in Chilli Jam and Chef’s Stock $14.80) was well received around the table. With good, natural flavours of clam blending in perfectly with the savoury stock, the dish becomes a notch sweeter with the succulent meaty fragrance from the clams in each bite.
The most value for money dish for the day is the Pla Nin Pao (Whole Salt Baked Tilapia $22.80) served with spicy coriander sauce. Having a whole fish served up, with the flesh tender and moist, makes this dish all the more worth it. I didn’t really need to have this with the sauce as the fish is well flavoured on its own. The skin is crusty and salty, and makes a perfect snack as you nibble the edges along the way. I would compare this to the Pla Phao Glua from Kha. Both are variants are excellently done, and though my vote will go to Kha’s creation for their managed smokiness throughout the fish’s skin, the one at Rochor Thai is just as good to share.
For a dish that is both flavourful and wholesome, with finger licking goodness, go for the Pad Kee Mao Goong (Stir Fried Thai Style Drunken Prawns $16.80). A little sweet, buttery, with bits of spice that hint of caramelized sugar, basil and possibly coriander. The freshness of the prawns play an important role in this dish, and I’m glad that it was good.
The side of Grilled Squid.
The side of Kor Moo Young (Pork Collar $12.80)
Tab Tim Grob (Red Ruby $4.80) is a classic at Thai restaurants. The tapioca pieces stuffed with water chestnut is served luxuriously with coconut milk for a smooth, buttery and refreshing texture that will cool down all the flavours after such a hearty meal. My only gripe is that much more can be done to improve the visual appeal of this dish. There is simply too much ice cubes floating about, and finding the red rubies was almost like a treasure hunt.
The Khao Niew Ma Muang (Mango Sticky Rice $7.80) was the final dessert to be served up. The glutinous rice is presented warm, with the coconut milk well integrated throughout, resulting in a flavourful sweet salty and savoury portion that develops further in flavour with each bite. The pairing of sweet mango complements the warm rice, making this dish satisfying from start to end.
Chef Aod (Chef de Cuisine), Joel (Chef/ Owner), Chef Stanly (Chef de Partie), Me
The meal at Rochor Thai was decently executed with almost every dish served. The flavours harmonised well with each other, and they make for great sharing portions around the table. Singularly, most of the dishes tended to be a little sweet and soothing, with a good amount of spice thrown in here and there, making the entire concept a modern Thai initiative. There is also no MSG used for the dishes, with the prices of each dish kept affordable and family friendly for all. I would consider Rochor Thai to be one of the better thai bistros around. However, because of its distance off the main road, each meal there has to be considered an adventure into Joo Chiat and recommended for those who live around the area.
Thank you Rochor Thai for the invitation.
340 Joo Chiat Road
Reservations: 6640 3270
Daily 11.30am – 10pm
Closed on Mondays