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For our first night out as the 2013 Bakersfield Life Food Dudes, we took a trip around the world. Alright, so it was more like right around the block, but it was to taste the Asian offerings at Singha Thai.
On the particular evening we visited Singha Thai, it celebrated its ninth anniversary, which made our visit special. This restaurant takes its namesake from the Thai word for "lion," a symbol of majesty and power in Asian culture.
The restaurant was founded by Saifon and Komol Piyapattarakul in 2003, when Komol decided to share his love of Thai food with Bakersfield after emigrating to the United States.
All of us Dudes knew just enough about Thai food, but we were not quite sure what to expect. However, after the time we shared, the Food Dudes encourage everyone to think outside the burger, or bento box, and give Thai a try.
Vin: When we arrived, our waitress recommended that we start by trying the Thai tea with boba, so we ordered a round of these surprising selections. For those unfamiliar with this drink, it is a specialty drink made of black tea sweetened with condensed milk and coconut milk. Do not let the milky orange color turn you off; the drink itself is refreshing and creamy, and the tapioca pearls (or boba) provide the right amount of chewy texture. I was pleasantly surprised to find the tapioca pearls to be slightly sweet, which added to the sweetness of the drink. I'm not a proponent of orange-flavored drinks, and was a bit concerned, but the taste grew on me with every sip.
Derek: Like many Asian cuisines, Thai food may be ordered family-style, so the five of us perused the menu and discussed the dishes we wanted to share. Some of these selections were accommodations of the owners (their choices); others were our personal ones.
Rick H.: Next, the Dudes and I were presented with a beautiful, pristine pot of sweet and sour seafood soup over scorching flames. I'm typically not an avid fan of sweet and sour soup, but this concoction was quite pleasing. The broth, a semi-rich, semi-spicy coconut-flavored blend of bay leaves, basil, green and red peppers, ginger and bamboo, went down easily and was perfectly accented with the variety of seafood to prevent the sour from being too sour. The shrimp, squid, crab claws and scallops were boiled at a temperature that made them tender, yet a bit chewy, and succulent. The total mixture of the seafood, herbs and spices, and vegetables proved to be quite comforting and left me yearning for more. And, yes, there was plenty more to come.
The appetizer combo -- a mouth-watering platter of vegetable egg rolls, fried won tons with cream cheese, tempura shrimp and vegetables (broccoli and carrots), and chicken satay was next to sample. I will admit, I am a finicky egg roll consumer, yet these rolls had the ideal blend of cabbage and carrots and were lightly fried, which is always a plus. Dipping the egg rolls into the sweet peanut sauce created the ideal mix of sweet and salty. The tempura shrimp and vegetables, lightly breaded, were nicely prepared. The shrimp was sweet and juicy, and the vegetables had just enough crunch. Vin sampled the satay chicken skewers, two pieces of tender white meat strips grilled on skewers, paired with sweet peanut sauce. The chicken was moist and flavorful. Always a good choice to start the meal with a little protein in preparation for carb-loaded noodles and rice dishes typically found in Thai cuisine. Finally, several of the Dudes indulged in the deep fried, crispy wonton skins filled with just enough cream cheese to make it the perfect combination of crunchy and soft.
After stuffing ourselves with the tea, soup and appetizers, it was time to dive into the entrees.
Derek: When we ordered the pineapple cashew fried rice, the waitress said it was one of their most popular dishes, and it all makes sense now. Singha does fried rice right and, in this case, they mixed in sauteed cashews (nuts are a common ingredient in Thai), carmelized onions, succulent grilled pineapple chunks and chopped fried egg. When the chefs mix all of this with a base of fried rice, it comes together in a dish that can only be described as comforting. Feeling just right on the palate, and delectable as it makes its way home to your stomach.
David: I spent the summer after my bar exam backpacking throughout Thailand. When I was in a restaurant, the language barrier was more pronounced. I could always remember one dish: pad thai, Thailand's national dish. The pad thai served at Singha Thai matched up with the best I have tasted -- the noodles were fresh and the chicken was perfectly cooked.
Vin: Spicy drunken noodle. No one knows why it is called drunken noodle, since there isn't a drop of alcohol in this dish, so please feel free to share with your underage dining companions. However, it is a versatile stir-fry noodle dish of which you can choose your own combination of ingredients -- chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu. In this case, the owner surprised us with bean curd (vegetarian). The dish is full of broad noodles in a spicy sauce treatment, tons of veggies, and all in all tremendously delicious. The noodles were soft but did not stick together. The bean curds had a nice bite to them, paired nicely with the softness of the noodles. The dish was just spicy enough to give it good flavor, yet not too spicy that you could not feel your taste buds. For real spicy-lovers, ask for Sriracha hot sauce and add it to your dish to kick it up a notch.
Rick K.: For the record, I'm a 60-year old Thai virgin. OK, not that kind, but to the best of my knowledge, I've never eaten Thai food. So, I was looking forward to a new experience -- sort of. I figured that it was more than just an urban legend that Thai could bring a new definition to "spicy." It's not exactly my cup of tea. I was pleasantly surprised that Nit (the owners' mother) steered me to their milder offerings.
The family-style presentation of our entrees certainly left us satisfied, but, really, how could we leave without sampling the dessert offerings? Answer: We couldn't! My fellow Dudes and I made short work of the refreshing (and rich) homemade coconut ice-cream served with freshly sliced papaya. I'm not a big banana fan, but when those puppies are served deep-fried, I'll certainly make an exception. And I'm glad I did!
David: After the cameras were gone, I stuffed my face with the sticky rice and mango. I enjoyed the fried banana and homemade coconut ice cream, too, but I could not get enough of the sticky rice.
Nit explained that Singha Thai does not do much advertising, but instead relies on "word of mouth" for its success. For what it's worth, this is hands down the best Thai restaurant that I have enjoyed in Bakersfield, and well worth the visit.