A lit­tle Thai teaser

For heav­enly Thai food at down-to-earth prices, the mall has it.


SHE’S be­hind restaurants such as Mon­tien and Surisit, but her name may not strike a chord even among Thai food lovers.

To in­sid­ers, Sita Jayadeva is Klang Val­ley’s diva-chef of Thai cui­sine. She’s part In­dian, Thai and Myan­mar, but her cui­sine sense how­ever, is true blue, dyed-in-the­silk Thai.

Af­ter ex­it­ing ac­tive run­ning of Surisit in Ta­man Tun Dr Ismail, she opened Old Siam, a 50-seater ko­pi­tiam-style restau­rant in the 1Utama Shop­ping Cen­tre in Petaling Jaya, which she runs with her older brother Glen.

Old Siam is not posh (like Mon­tien), but the food is re­ally some­thing to go back for. For so unas­sum­ing an eatery – and in a mall’s busy food sec­tion, no less – the qual­ity and au­then­tic­ity of the food far sur­pass the taste and value-for-money for the cat­e­gory it com­petes in.

Old Siam is able to deliver au­then­tic flavours be­cause of Jayadeva’s long as­so­ci­a­tion with Thai food. Her Myan­mar-Thai mother owned and op­er­ated Café d’Chi­ang Mai, the first Thai restau­rant in Pe­nang, and Jayadeva was lit­er­ally brought up in its kitchen; ad­mit­tedly lit­tle Sita was quite her daddy’s lit­tle dar­ling, and she was al­lowed to be a diva even back then.

She is no food snob, but Jayadeva is par­tic­u­lar about the ori­gins of her in­gre­di­ents. She knows the dif­fer­ence Thai­land-sourced in­gre­di­ents make to the pu­rity of the food she serves. As such, many of her in­gre­di­ents are im­ported from Thai­land, in­clud­ing the shrimp paste ( kapi or bela­can), chill­ies and sauces.

An­other thing that sets Old Siam apart is that ev­ery­thing is made fresh at the restau­rant. Noth­ing comes pre-pack­aged or out of a box. And sur­pris­ingly for a mall-based restau­rant, Old Siam of­fers non­halal food.

As Jayadeva tells it, “Old Siam started busi­ness in April 2013. We wanted to of­fer more street food as op­posed to tra­di­tional Thai food since we have all these recipes from my mother.

“Our con­cept was to have rea­son­ably priced, one-dish items for quick serv­ing and eat­ing, cater­ing to the of­fice crowds. We wanted to of­fer ha­lal food, but the mall man­age­ment re­quested us to go non­halal and guided us on the price struc­ture for the dishes.”

If the crowds are any­thing to go by, Old Siam has cer­tainly filled a niche with the work crowd as well as mall-go­ers. While there is some level of Malaysian­i­sa­tion of the cui­sine, the food is still more Thai than many other Thai restaurants.

“In Thai­land, the laksa ( khanom jeen nam ya pla) is served at room tem­per­a­ture. We tried to serve it like that, but din­ers kept send­ing the food back com­plain­ing it was cold, so we now serve it pip­ing hot. Also, in Thai­land, this laksa is not served with so much liq­uid. It is a gravy, as op­posed to a soup, but our pa­trons al­ways asked for more gravy, so now we serve it with more, to cater to lo­cal din­ing pref­er­ences,” shares Jayadeva.

Serv­ing tem­per­a­ture and gravy pref­er­ences aside, Old Siam’s food keeps to all that makes Thai street food so mouth­wa­ter­ing. The Hormok (fish otak otak, RM8.90 for two parcels) is served with bread, and is pure fish and co­conut milk. No flour is used, and the teng­giri chunks are both vis­i­ble and suc- LG 325 Lower Ground Floor 1 utama Shop­ping Cen­tre Le­buh ban­dar utama ban­dar utama 47800 Petaling Jaya, Se­lan­gor. Tel: +603 7727 7768 Hours: 10.30am to 10pm daily cu­lent. The recipe is in­her­ited from Café d’Chi­ang Mai, ac­cord­ing to Jayadeva.

The Tauhu Yat Sai, RM8.90, is bean curd stuffed with pork and fried, served with a tangy dip­ping sauce. Light, fluffy and crisp, it is non-greasy, with the tofu be­ing crunchy and the pork re­main­ing moist.

Food pre­sen­ta­tion is an­other sur- pris­ing thing about Old Siam.

All the items are plated with care, and the laksa, RM12.90, comes out in in­di­vid­ual noo­dle nests, sur­rounded by the ac­com­pa­ny­ing diced long beans, bean sprouts, Thai basil leaves and cu­cum­ber, all tidily ar­ranged. The dish also comes with half a soft-cen­tred boiled duck egg, the yolk bril­liantly or­ange against the white.

Even the sim­ple Nasi Ulam and Khao Kruk Kapi (bela­can rice with sweet tamarind pork) are pretty to look at, sur­pris­ing with the depth of flavour and the near-per­fect taste and tex­ture of all the in­gre­di­ents.

It is pos­si­ble that you may find some of the sweet el­e­ments in the food a lit­tle much, but this is re­ally the way the Thais eat it, bal­anc­ing sweet with the heat of chill­ies or strong herbs and fresh veg­eta­bles.

Like all nat­u­ral cooks, Jayadeva and her brother Glen, the quiet force in the kitchen, used to rely on in­stinct to pre­pare food, but since go­ing commercial, she has set strin­gent mea­sures for the weigh­ing and mea­sur­ing of in­gre­di­ents to en­sure that taste is con­sis­tent. She also drops in for spot checks to en­sure that the high stan­dards are kept up.

Old Siam of­fers a small se­lec­tion of desserts, with the two most usual items, Thab Thim Krob (wa­ter chest­nut and jack­fruit in co­conut milk, RM7.90) and Khao Niau Ma Mueng (Thai mango with gluti­nous rice, RM10.90). A more rare dessert, Kluay Buad Chee (steamed banana in co­conut milk, RM6.90) is only avail­able when the right kind of plan­tain ba­nanas is avail­able.

Cosy hang-out: Old Siam, a mod­ern ko­pi­tiam that serves Thai street fare in 1-utama Shop­ping Cen­tre.

Sita Jayadeva, one of the main driv­ers be­hind Thai restaurants such as Old Siam, Surisit and Mon­tien (closed).

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