Thai Express: The mid-range Thai option that works!

I am not a huge fan of ‘Chain’ restaurants. Let me rephrase that, I am not overly awed by ‘Chain’ restaurants unless they are truly outstanding. Few exceptions being Jumbo Seafood, Din Tai Fung… which I immensely enjoy…  And after having a few meals at Thai Express in the last few weeks… I thought it was worth a mention.

I have often heard this complain that Singapore doesn’t have decent affordable Thai food. Either you go to one of those small time food court-like places, or you enter the ones that are quite expensive. And for this particular reason, I believe Thai Express offers a good alternative. Just a small tit-bit about the place. Thai Express was born in Holland Village, Singapore in 2002, started by local Singaporeans… and since then they have expanded in SE-Asia, Mongolia, Australia and India as well.

A week ago we went to Thai Express at Bugis+ with a couple of friends.

Spicerover recommended - Thai Express

Thai Express

One thing I love about Thai Express is its bright, bold colours of their ambience.

Spicerover recommended - Thai Express

Thai Express

The entire place has warm feel to it, thanks to the dominant orange that is generously used in its décor.

Spicerover recommended - Thai Express

Thai Express

Another thing I have always noticed about Thai Express is the smiling maître de… and the pleasant service you get. Of course this might just be a co-incidence, but I have yet to have an unpleasant service experience there…

Coming to food… well I do not find Thai Express food exceptional… it’s not the best Thai I have had. Yet it stands out for two reasons. [1] They understand vegetarian, and can give you most of their standard dishes in vegetarian (they check with you if egg is okay, and give you eggless options if you ask for it). [2] It falls in the perfect mid-range in terms of prices. It isn’t quite that cheap, yet a meal there doesn’t burn a hole in your pockets, and you do get a decent Thai meal in a good setting.

An interesting fact, they claim is that 95% of their food is made to order and while they primarily are Thai driven, they have made innovations in their cuisines, bringing in the local delicacies like Thai Laksa, Japanese wraps etc. to name a few.

This is what we tried:

Thai Mango Salad

Yam Mamuang or Thai Mango Salad @ Thai Express

[1] Yam Mamuang or Mango Salad: I just cannot imagine a Thai meal without the spicy Mango salad… and I quite like the mango salad at Thai Express. With just the right amount of spicy chillies accompanied by the tanginess of the raw mango, makes it an amazing appetizer.

Kanom Pang Na Kung or Prawn Toast

Kanom Pang Na Kung or Prawn Toast @ Thai Express

[2] Kanom Pang Na Kung or Prawn Toast: The prawn toasts were nice, albeit too oily for my taste, but then you are talking about fried bread with mashed prawns on it. It was a good dish, but I would have preferred it to be a little more spicy… just to offset the oily after-taste you have in your mouth. Having said that it was a decent dish.

Phat Thai (Vegetarian)

Phat Thai (Vegetarian) @ Thai Express

[3] Phat Thai (Vegetarian): This is my all time favourite at Thai Express. Again probably not the best, but it is done really well. The decent mix of vegetables, noodles makes it a hearty dish to have, all by itself. As for the photo, this is what happens when you wait too long to click photos!

Tau Hoo Phat Krapow or Rice with Thai basil tofu (Vegetarian)

Tau Hoo Phat Krapow or Rice with Thai basil tofu (Vegetarian) @ Thai Express

[4] Tau Hoo Phat Krapow or Rice with Thai basil tofu (Vegetarian): While the tofu was well-made, it was probably not the dish we expected. Slightly underwhelming, especially after having just had some good Thai food. There are lot more options in Vegetarian menu you can try… and I would recommend a skip on this one. I had really hungry diners around me who couldn’t wait for the photo to be clicked!

Kaeng Khiew Wan Gai or Tender juicy chicken in jade green curry

Kaeng Khiew Wan Gai or Tender juicy chicken in jade green curry @ Thai Express

[5] Kaeng Khiew Wan Gai or Tender juicy chicken in jade green curry: The green curry was good, nothing exceptional, but palatable. I thought there was a tad bit too much ginger in the curry, but my companions seemed to enjoy it, so it might be put down to personal preference in this case.

Fried Olive Rice

Fried Olive Rice @ Thai Express

[6] Fried Olive Rice (Vegetarian): Good, with generous amounts of olive taste to it… nicely made.

Khao Niao Mamuang or Mango Sticky Rice

Khao Niao Mamuang or Mango Sticky Rice @ Thai Express

[7] Khao Niao Mamuang or Mango Sticky Rice: The sweet glutinous rice with fresh mango and coconut milk is my most favourite dessert across cuisines. Of course that might have something to do with the fact that I am quite crazy about mangoes and coconut too. The quality of the mango this time around at Thai Express wasn’t that great, but the well-made sticky rice and the generous portion of coconut milk partially made up for the disappointing mango. All the same I would still recommend this dish…

Mun Cheam or Steamed sweet potato with coconut milk

Mun Cheam or Steamed sweet potato with coconut milk @ Thai Express

[8] Mun Cheam or Steamed sweet potato with coconut milk: I have never imagined sweet potato (something I have always had only on days that mom would fast for religious reasons) could be made into a delicate dessert. For those who enjoy the slightly rough texture of nicely boiled potatoes, try out this dish. It is different and interesting, especially for the adventurous kinds.

How much will it cost me: A dinner for 4, comprising of the dishes above cost us around S$ 80-S$ 90. It is a great affordable place for those who want to experience something above a normal food-court.

Verdict: It’s a quick-fix for a Thai craving. The non-fuss, simple dining restaurant has won accolades since its conception in 2002, including the “Thai Select” Brand awarded by the Royal Thai Government certifying authenticity of their food. The restaurant has a huge selection of Vegetarian options, and they understand customization. Less-spicy, more-spicy, no egg etc. isn’t such a hassle if you communicate well with the staff. The bright orange place deserves a thumbs up for providing affordable Thai food without compromising too much on taste or quality. For that alone, it deserves a Thumbs up.

Rating: ***

Address: Thai Express has 25+ outlets across Singapore. Any major mall, you can expect to see a Thai Express there. They do not accept reservations, and the place can get quite crowded during peak-meal hours or on weekends.


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