By Kylie Francis on November 17th, 2020
I can’t go more than three days in any city without starting to crave the delectable flavors of Southeast Asian food. The region’s tropical climate is not only conducive to producing a wide variety of herbs, fruits, and vegetables, but it also influences the types of meals that are prepared: lighter, leaner dishes that won’t weigh you down on a hot and humid day.
There are countless options for good Southeast Asian food in London, as well as a huge range of different country cuisines to cover. But if you’re in the mood for a good Malaysian or Thai restaurant — as we often are, being Malaysian and Thai — here are some of our regular go-to spots.
Malaysian: Roti King and Gopal’s Corner
Located in the basement of a nondescript building in Euston, the roti canai at Roti King is genuinely one of the best outside of Malaysia. For the uninitiated, roti canai (or roti prata) is a soft, flaky flatbread served with dhal or curry. Have it with a hot milo or teh tarik (pulled tea with condensed milk) to warm you up on a cold, wintry day.
Following the success of Roti King, owner Sugen Gopal opened Gopal’s Corner in Victoria Market Hall, named after a restaurant owned by his parents in the former tin-mining town of Ipoh, Malaysia. It was here that Mr. Gopal made roti for the first time. Whereas Roti King is Pan-Malaysian and includes dishes from the different ethnic communities found in Malaysia, Gopal’s is primarily Malaysian Tamil. The dishes originate from Tamil Nadu in southern India or have been created by the Tamil speaking community in Malaysia. Popular dishes include roti canai, mee goreng mamak and banana leaf kari and rice.
Thai: Kiln and Som Saa
Winner of the 2018 National Restaurant Awards, Kiln brings an innovative approach to Thai cuisine. The restaurant serves small plates of high quality British meat and seafood, fused with complex flavors from the regions where Thailand borders Burma, Laos, and Yunnan. Chef Ben Chapman, who also opened the excellent Smoking Goat in Soho, has painstakingly researched the rural cooking of northern Thailand with an obsessive zeal and it is evident in his signature dish — the clay-pot-baked glass noodles with Tamworth belly and crab meat tastes phenomenal from first bite to last.
Another northern Thai-influenced joint, Som Saa began as a pop-up in Climpson’s Arch before a wildly successful crowd-funding campaign helped them to raise £550,000 to open a permanent location in a former fabrics warehouse just south of Spitalfields market. Chef Andy Oliver cut his culinary teeth at Nahm in London as well as a stint at one of my favorite restaurants, Bo.Lan, in Bangkok. Come with a group and try a bit of everything, especially the deep fried seabass with herbs from Isan - the northeastern region of Thailand that inspired the creation of Rosa Supra.
Chef Ramael Scully, formerly the head chef of Nopi, grew up in Sydney, but was born in Malaysia to a mother of Chinese and Indian heritage and an Irish-Balinese father. His travels and family heritage inform his style of food which you’ll notice in ingredients such as “chicken floss sambal”. The food is consistently amazing and teeming with flavours from home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kylie is Dia’s co-founder based in New York City. Hailing from a family of journalists and writers, Kylie grew up with a passion for stories and a curiosity about the world. This has led her to travel extensively across the globe and she has lived in Malaysia, Zimbabwe and the United States. Kylie graduated with a Bachelor’s in Government from Harvard University and an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.