if not for the fact that i used to have math tuition (oh, those were the days) in the area and spent quite some time exploring random parts of bugis, i probably would never have stepped into or even thought of stepping into shaw towers along beach road. it is old with a facade which is in need of an uplift, and is definitely not a building that catches your attention at all – even if you say you have no idea which building i’m talking about, i’d place bets on the fact that you’ve probably gone by it several times without realising it!
located on the ground floor of the aforementioned nondescript building, ah loy thai is one of a handful of food outlets there. it occupies 2 shop units (1 of which seems nicer than the other), and is almost always fully packed at meal times. they have the hallmark of a popular joint right outside their shop – a barricade is put up in anticipation of a queue. decor in the shop is fuss-free and far from being fancy – its the kind of place people turn up at in shorts and slippers, with good and affordable food being their sole purpose of visiting.
we were there close to 7pm on a saturday night, and were surprised to find that there was a table for us available immediately, albeit in the unit we later discovered seemed to be the “poorer cousin” of the 2 units they occupy there…
compare where we were seated (ft. my excited dining companion):with their 2nd unit further down the corridor:see what i mean? the chairs and lighting really make all the difference…
didn’t bother us much though, since we were there for the food and not the ambience, but if you’re celebrating a special occasion for example, then i’d definitely recommended opting for a table at the unit that’s further down the hallway if possible, for that little bit of improvement in the setting.
between the 2 of us (big-eaters), we ordered 3 dishes to share, beginning with the green mango salad:thai green mango salad – $6.90
for some reason the serving looks pretty small in the picture above, but it wasn’t actually that small at all; it was very sufficient for 2 people to share. we really enjoyed this refreshing salad, particularly with the peanuts and little dried shrimps which added additional crunch. the sauce was of just the right sourness and the green mango was fresh. i’d order this again when i return!
no thai meal is every complete without some tom yum soup, so we ordered a bowl of that to share too:tom yum seafood soup – $7.90
i thought this was an extremely reasonably priced bowl of soup! you probably can’t tell from the way i’ve taken the picture that it came in a large claypot-like thing which really held a substantial amount of spicy soupy goodness. (you’ll probably be better able to see its size in relation to other things in picture of everything placed together below) we ordered the one with seafood, and were pleasantly surprised that they were generous with the squid, prawns and mushrooms (oyster mushrooms, not the lousy canned button mushroom substitute) that they added. all the ingredients were very fresh too! the soup packed a real punch and we were super satisfied, happily ladling and slurping up bowl after bowl. if you can’t take spicy food, this is probably a no-go though; the soup is rather spicy and we quite quickly developed runny noses and red faces. i thought this dish was testament to the fact that quality does not always have to be compromised on when something is priced relatively affordably. this is again something i would order on a return visit!
another thing i will never leave satisfied from a thai meal without having is none other than pad thai:pad thai – $7.50
this dish took the longest to be served, but it was worth the wait! it was another very generous serving with prawns and chicken as toppings, and my friend and i both thought it was one of the better pad thais we’ve had. there was just the right amount of wok hei for the noodles and mixed with lime squeezed over it and plenty of peanuts, it made for an excellent dish. we especially loved the noodles they used; they were thin and retained bite, almost like the texture of tang hoon but in thin kway teow form. two thumbs up! the prawns were also fresh and crunchy, as was the tow gay. we also liked how it wasn’t too greasy, so wiping the plate clean was no problem at all 😉 (we were actually getting really full about 3/4 through the pad thai but it was so yummy that we just kept going…)
ah loy thai is a great place to have authentic and homely thai food at affordable prices. i definitely prefer it to the other cheap thai eateries in the bugis area like jai thai and first thai. plus, tom’s palette is right across the corridor so its ultra convenient for having dessert after 😛 (which is exactly what we did, despite us being really full from dinner.) i will certainly be back for more!
PS. as i mentioned earlier, tom’s palette right across the corridor from ah loy thai is the perfect spot for some ice cream for dessert. they are known for their salted egg yolk flavoured ice cream (tastes pretty much like frozen liu sha), but i thoroughly enjoy other flavours from their wide range like banana and roasted nuts, black sesame, lavender, honey and cinnamon etc.
with my favourite partner-in-crime/partner-in-many-non-stop-eating-and-feasting-adventures/fellow bottomless pit