Thasevi Food | Jalan Kayu

Overcast.

It was a ripe and toasty 29 deg C as I headed northeast to ride the newest addition to the Singapore rail network: the Punggol West LRT line. Strictly speaking, it’s not entirely new. Typically, a city’s transport infrastructure is well, short-sighted for economic reasons – built only after the urban area reaches a critical mass. This results in streets that are way too narrow, and street activities disrupted due to massive, unsightly rail and/or road tunneling projects. For both Sengkang and Punggol estates in Singapore, the authorities decided to take an avant-garde approach, designing the towns from the ground up, incorporating rail infrastructure from the very start, instead of midway. So, the viaducts of tracks and stations running throughout these two towns were completed way before they greeted their first residents.

Almost 12 years later since its completion, the final phase of the Punggol West LRT line is open. This serves the western half of the up and coming mega-town, heading north towards Punggol Point before skirting down the western coast of the peninsula as it returns back to Punggol MRT station. With much of its route still undeveloped, it’s quite the scenic ride, offering breathtaking views of the Straits of Johor, Pasir Gudang in Malaysia, and Sungei Punggol. Personally, it’s not as scenic as the North South Line route along the Lower Seletar reservoir, though.

After a 12.5 minute ride, it was time for lunch. Originally, I wanted to go back to Ang Mo Kio central for lunch. I had planned to write a review on this place, but despite my utmost amateur photoshop editing skills, the pictures were simply taken in too dark a place. However, my stomach began rumbling and I began to think up of ideas.

There wasn’t much I could think of, except the area near Thangam LRT station. It was near enough, and there was an indirect bus home so I was set.

Thangam LRT station is the closest urban rail stop serving the gastronomic outpost of Jalan Kayu. Even though there may be far more received places, the word “Jalan Kayu” still conjures up images of roti prata for many Singapore-born Singaporeans. And since I was in the area, I thought, “why not?” The last time I ate at the famous Thasevi was back in 2005, for a post Pre-University Seminar meeting with my Pre-University Seminar “friends”. Try as we may, but trying to squeeze a meaningful friendship after just 4 whole days together was no easy task. Still, and rather surprisingly, I am still actually in fairly occasional contact with one, though, and get this: he’s not even one of my Pre-University Seminar group mates!

You either love Thasevi, or you just hate it. Firstly, it’s the only roti prata still on the strip, and secondly, the prices are so steep, you might be fooled into thinking you’re at the airport.

In Singapore, change is constant, and so is the food. There’s now a whole sub-culture to roti prata. Tourists visit, and they want to eat a Singaporean dish, not realizing that it has evolved with every kitchen and every chef. Sure, at its base, it’s still a plate of chicken rice, or a slice of roti prata, but there are nuances that makes food hunting in Singapore such a thrill among Singaporeans and seasoned visitors. In Malaysia? Sure, there’s a certain consistency to the dishes there and as such, once you’ve tried one, you’ve tried it all. In Singapore? That’s certainly not the case.

Roti prata in Singapore, a fried flour-based pancake usually served with a side dish of curry, has as far as my observations go, diverged into two. The first, a light, silky and fluffy evolution of Malaysia’s Roti Canai (essentially the same dish but it differs in that the chef will manually fluff up the pancake before serving). The second, a crisp exterior with a light and fluffy interior, almost like a flattened croissant if you will. The latter, is what you’ll find at institutions like The Roti Prata House and Casuarina Prata. The former, is what you’ll find at places like Sin Ming Prata and Thasevi. Some prefer the other, but the love for roti prata is national.

Honestly speaking, even when I focus on the taste and flavor, I wasn’t wowed by my egg prata and cheese prata. If I lived in the area, I probably wouldn’t mind a every other Sunday breakfast kind of habit but I live in Sin Ming. I’ve got so many prata places to choose from, done better and cheaper, from The Roti Prata House and Sin Ming Prata to Casuarina Prata. I’d even throw in AMK Hub’s Prata Raya as being better and more worth in value than Thasevi. In fact, they’re so good, I think they’re definitely the best in Singapore bar none.

So… I hope my next trip to Thasevi, which given my history will take place in 9 years time, will be a bit better. I mean… the mutton curry’s so bland, it’s shocking.

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