The interiors of the all-day diner, tucked away on the ground floor of The Montien Hotel in Bangkok, are a bit old-fashioned. But look beyond its classic wood panelling and floral upholstery, and you’ll discover that for over four decades, the chefs of Ruen Ton (Bib Gourmand) have managed to keep groups of friends returning and tempted foodies to seek out this classic hotel restaurant.
This attention to culinary details is captured in the Thai philosophy of lamiat, a pursuit of perfection that defines everything from how national breweries like Chang look beyond the ordinary in the pursuit of golden excellence to traditional craftspeople, tasked with safeguarding the kingdom’s artistic heritage for generations to come.
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“Lamiat to me is the meticulous care and the heart we put into perfecting the quality and flavour of every single dish to ensure a perfect evening with friends,” says the hotel’s long-standing executive Chef Amnuay Aneksuwan.
Before he joined the hotel 17 years ago, Chef Amnuay’s predecessors had already experimented with, and perfected, a number of the restaurant’s signature dishes. But the consistent execution of its Thai-Chinese comfort dishes makes Ruen Ton a reliable choice of restaurant to enjoy a hearty meal, enjoyed with equally down-to-earth friends with refined quality drinks.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
From a dedicated kiosk, chefs plate up over 300 servings of this dish on an average day, starting from 11:30 a.m. to whenever the chicken runs out, usually by dinnertime. The deceptively simple dish stands out because all its components – the moist and tender chicken, the aromatic chicken rice and the accompanying soup and choice of four sauces – all work together beautifully.
The preparation begins with the selection process, ensuring the chickens are of a sizeable weight, around four kilogrammes. After they’re carefully poached for approximately an hour at a sub-boil temperature, the whole chickens are quickly cooled off to maintain a favourable texture and juiciness of meat and skin. Similarly, the jasmine rice used is carefully selected from optimal crop age (too new, and there’s too much starch content, and vice versa) for the resulting grains to cling together but retain a wholeness.
Fried Rice Noodles Topped with Pork, Squid and River Prawns in Brown Sauce
In Thai, the dish name translates to “The Emperor’s Fried Rice Noodles”, perhaps a more fitting name for a noodle dish whose portion size is substantial enough for two – just as well, because food always tastes better when enjoyed with friends. Compared to a standard rad na noodle dish, the differences are big – literally. The wide rice noodles are smothered with generous slices of pork, whole river prawn, and crispy squid, mixed in with sizeable pieces of vegetables including broccoli, green asparagus, cauliflower, kale, and coconut shoots.
A hint of sesame oil harmonises the gravy to result in a balanced dish that goes big on ingredients.
Sautéed Turnip Cakes
This is a classic dim sum favourite, reinterpreted as a standalone dish. The turnip cakes are crafted at the hotel’s dim sum kitchen, pan-fried to crispy perfection, and sautéed with shrimps, chive, and eggs. Inside the bite-sized turnip cake chunks, the savoury flavours burst with umami taste thanks to the finely chopped pork and pork fat content, contrasting texturally with the fresh crunchy bean sprouts.
Like all the sauces used at the restaurant, the accompanying sweet dark soy sauce has been tweaked by the chefs to balance out the dish.
Nothing good comes that easily, especially when it comes to pork spareribs. Here, the spareribs sit in a tomato-based marinade for about two hours, soaking up all the flavours before it is braised for another two hours until the meat is off-the-bones tender.
The chilli and vinegar sauce that comes with the dish evens out the sweetness of the marinade. The finger-licking-goodness of the meat can be made into a complete meal when enjoyed with the accompanying plate of steamed rice topped with fried egg.
Unlike the classic pan-fried mussels with egg dish more commonly found at street vendors around town, these pan-fried mussels are mixed with a special blend of flour and deep fried. The result is crunchy sheets of fresh mussel and fried batter – an ideal beer snack if there was any.
Much thought has also been given to the accompanying chilli sauce here, which serves as perfect palate refreshers between bites.
The recipes at Ruen Ton may have been perfected decades ago, but it’s the consistent pursuit of perfection every time the chefs reproduce a dish that has given the restaurant its reputation for high-quality food. The wide selection of accompanying sauces for individual dishes illustrate the chefs’ commitment to lamiat, orchestrating details to balance flavours, textures, and presentation.
One can even compare Ruen Ton to a good friend – reliable, consistent, and best enjoyed with a glass of refined quality drink.
For more information on Ruen Ton’s Thai-Chinese comfort cuisine, visit http://www.montien.com/bangkok/main.php?getmenu=food&page=ruenton.
This article is brought to you by Chang.