A Celebrity Chef Brings Authentic Thai Street Food to The Grid
It took a discouraging search for authentic Thai cuisine in Manila for Chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn to decide to put up his own food concept. A fan of Thai street food, the you celebrity chef disclosed that he could not find something close to what he enjoyed at the Samyan Market in Bangkok, where he used to eat breakfast, lunch and, dinner every day. “They have all kinds of street food and everything is just delicious,” he describes.
That can also be said of his offerings at Samyan, the latest stall to be located at the erstwhile Mecca of curated good grub at Rockwell’s The Grid. His dream of letting Filipinos taste authentic Thai dishes came into fruition through a partnership with food entrepreneur Patrick Pesengco (also of Nespresso) and Tasteless Food Group’s Charles Paw. Chef Ton flew in for the preparations and pre-opening for Samyan, taking a break from his busy Bangkok-based schedule of running his Michelin-starred restaurant Le Du, the 20th best restaurant in Asia 2019, and Baan, which was included in Michelin’s Bib Gourmand guide. He is also a judge of Top Chef Thailand.
Everything is how it's supposed to taste when you have a chef of Chef Ton's history in your corner. He prepares the tom yum the same way Thai street food vendors do, using evaporated milk for creaminess and mouthfeel. The spicy soup is redolent of the herbs that are finely chopped so there's a more seamless integration into the prawn-infused soup. The thick creamy goodness of the tom yum may be ordered with noodles, but for a more imaginative twist, Chef Ton also offers tom yum rice. It has all the mouth-watering flavors of the popular soup-based dish but in the form of fried rice, served with fried tilapia, a prawn piece, and a wedge of lime.
At Samyan, one can also find the Thais’ version of adobo. “If you go around Thailand and ask people what they like to eat, they will answer krapao,” the chef explains. “It is like our no-brainer or default food.”
His version is stays true to what he wants in a krapao, with no vegetables like carrots or green beans. “It’s just chili garlic, meat, and Thai basil and we make it very intense. All the sauce goes to the meat so it is very juicy, not like other krapaos, especially the ones found outside Thailand where they make the sauce like gravy so you end up with a watery dish that looks like meat soup. This is stir-fried, eaten with rice and an egg that is not seasoned so everything is balanced.”
Another fried rice dish that shouldn’t be missed at Samyan is the khao kluk tapi or bagoong rice for us Filipinos. It is rice made super flavorful with savory Thai shrimp paste, served with shallots, shredded green mangoes, chili, egg omelette and roasted pork. For those who are wary of spicy food, there’s the chef’s Thai grilled chicken that is tender and heady with the taste of turmeric, coconut milk, and lemon grass, to be dipped in a spice-laced tamarind sauce. Chef Ton also launched crispy pork strips, meant as a starter, but logical with rice.
To accompany the hot meals, Samyan also offers a velvety Thai milk tea.
The chef says that he did not tweak the recipes to suit the Filipino palate, but rather chose to offer dishes that will appeal to local tastes. “What we aim to do here is to have easy choices that are nothing super high-end and offer something really good for our price points,” he explains.
For more information on Samyan at The Grid, visit @thegridfoodmarket on Instagram and Facebook.