Preface: This post is dedicated to my mum. I had planned on writing a review on this restaurant before coming to China but never got around to it. And since my mum took such great photos (yes, I’m less tech-savvy than my mum) & Methavalai Sorndaeng was so great & definitely worth a try if you ever visit Bangkok, I felt I must write something about it!!
So, why did I call Methavalai Sorndaeng a royalty restaurant? Back in the days, the Thai royal family or president would often invite important guests for a meal at this place. You will see that waiters wear uniforms of royal servants. Because this place has such a long & special history (established in 1957, as the manager proudly pointed out. He even told me to take a photo of the plate), it is often dubbed by Thais as a “ร้านอาหารโบราณ” or “antique restaurant”. This is also because of the 60’s aura of the restaurant & the dishes have been prepared in the traditional way.
Another huge attraction for this restaurant is its proximity to the Democracy Monument. Many things have happened there, both good & bad. The monument is definitely still an impressive-looking infrastructure. This photo was taken right from the main entrance of the restaurant.
In any case, Thai food & portion tend to be quite balanced & healthy. Since this restaurant prepares traditional-style foods, can we expect good nutrition from them?
“แกงป่ากุ้งสด” or Jungle Curry w/ fresh shrimp
This dish definitely looks very oily & spicy, in fact, it is very refreshing. It contains only lean protein (fresh river shrimp), plenty of vegetables & antioxidant-rich ‘herbs’ like finger root or basil leaves. Curry pastes are usually stir-fried in oil before being added to the soup to create aroma, hence, you see some oil floating on top. This is in fact only a small amount.
This jungle curry was mostly spicy, hot & tasted of plenty of herbs. I prefer my jungle curry to have a tinge of sweetness to it, hence the lower rating. It was also not strongly seasoned & they went a bit overboard w/ the herbs. The good side is the “fresh shrimp” which was very fresh (springy & light).
Thai people have the belief that eating spicy food can strengthen your immune system (in fact, scientific evidence has proven this). Chili contains plenty of vitamin C & carotene for your skin & cancer-fighting compound (capsaicin). This soup definitely contains plenty of that. Other than that, the soup is filled w/ herbal plants like finger root (anti-bacterial, diuretic & digestive properties) & holy basil (aids indigestion, flatulence & helps w/ digestion). It also contain veggies like eggplant, string beans, bamboo shoots, yard long beans, cauliflower, etc. which all provide plenty of fibre & some minerals. The shrimp obviously provides lean, low-fat protein w/ plenty of minerals like calcium, iodine & omega 3 fatty acids.
But why did I give this soup only 3 1/2 stars? Personally, I believe in “moderation” even w/ healthy food. Even though chili contain lots of great benefits, there was way too many in this soup. Consuming too many chili, rather than help w/ metabolism, may actually cause bloating & harm your stomach (more info here).
“ไก่นึ่งมะนาว” or steamed lemon chicken
This dish can be considered a Southern Chinese-Thai fusion dish.
The chicken piece used definitely contained a little too many bones (perhaps thigh part), but the meat was still very soft & the sauce fully soaked in. The sauce was very flavorful – spicy, sour w/ a bit of sweetness & pungent garlic flavor.
The best nutritional feature of chicken is definitely its high polyunsaturated fat content. Omega 6 fatty acids is incredibly important in regulating HDL/LDL cholesterols, promoting heart health & other health benefits (link to research articles here). In fact, ‘essence of chicken‘ is a popular Asian dietary supplement (so is drinking chicken soup during a cold – in the West). This dish is also steamed, which reduces the amount of oil used. However, because there is no nutritional variation in the dish I only gave it 3 stars.
“เต้าหู้ทรงเครื่อง” or tofu in brown sauce (gravy)
This is a popular plant-based dish in Thailand that non-vegetarians also enjoy.
Despite the tofu being deep-fried, the dish still tasted very refreshing & flavorful. Everything including the vegetables were also well prepared .
Tofu is a good source of plant-based protein & minerals (like calcium & iron. It is not as nutritionally dense as many animal products, however, it is much lower in calories, cheaper & is easier to prepare hence making it a staple in Asian cuisine. This stir-fry also contain textured soy protein (often called TVP) which I don’t totally like since it undergoes more processing comparing to other soy products (homemade tofu uses thousands of years old methods). Nevertheless, soy protein is still a very good source of protein & essential amino acids for vegetarians/vegans.
“น้ำพริกกะปิ” or spicy shrimp paste
Lots of Thai people believe our distinctive “น้ำพริก or spicy paste” contain numerous health benefits. Spicy pastes are often paired w/ plenty of vegetables which forces us to eat more of them. Other than this, spicy pastes contain numerous “medicinal ingredients” such as fresh chili, garlic, shallots, etc. The notion that spicy paste is healthy is still uncertain since spicy pastes often contain fermented ingredients, kept for a long time & fresh vegetables eaten w/ them can be contaminated w/ insecticide or bacteria. Hence, spicy paste is still not a food to be blindly consumed w/ the idea that they contain zero side effects.
Typical spicy shrimp paste taste. Very sweet & spicy.
As mentioned, spicy pastes are a melting pot of Thai herbs. They may contain nutritious ingredients such as fresh chili, garlic, shallots, pepper, eggplant, fresh tomatoes, dried shrimps, ground fish, pork, and fermented fish, etc. Some of these ingredients reportedly contain antioxidants and anti-ageing compounds that may reduce risks of cancer, heart disease (by 20%), epilepsy & brain diseases (Thai source here). Undoubtedly, the spicy pastes contain a dense source of nutrients like minerals (calcium, potassium, etc.) & vitamins (C, B’s, etc.) The nutrients are very concentrated, but so is the amount of salt, sugar & chili. For example, one serving of spicy shrimp paste is 55 calories. Most of the calories come from sugar, w/ a smaller portion from fermented shrimp paste & ground dried shrimp.
Spicy paste is definitely something to not be eaten in large amounts & every day. As it may bring risks of high-sodium & food poisoning. The best spicy paste to eat is home-made or bought at a store w/ hygienic standards.
As mentioned earlier, spicy pastes encourage consumption of vegetables (because of the spiciness, they are often paired w/ fresh/steamed vegetables or rice). Vegetables are high in vitamins and fibre which are beneficial to digestive, heart health, hypoglycemia (helps manage blood-sugar), etc.
“หมี่กรอบทรงเครื่อง” or mixed crispy rice noodles
หมี่กรอบ is a noodle dish traditionally served for royalties. Thin rice noodles are deep-fried then soaked in a sweet sauce made w/ tamarind & palm sugar. หมี่กรอบ is often served w/ sides like fresh mung bean sprouts, chives & in this case, shrimp & pork.
It’s a dish w/ all sorts of flavor & texture: sweet, sour, a little bit spicy, crispy, fresh & slightly oily.
This dish is not completely nutritionally balanced. Hence, Thai people often eat it as a side dish (w/ rice). The deep-fried noodles contain lots of oil, comparable to potato chips. Often, this dish will contain only small amounts of fresh vegetables like chives & mung bean sprouts (which in the amount served, contain small amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A & manganese) & meat like shrimp or pork (which will provide protein, vitamin B’s, cholesterol & some minerals). If you eat this entire serving, you will obtain about ~300-500 calories, ~15%-25% daily calorie recommendation, 25% daily calorie recommendation of protein, small amounts of minerals, vitamins & many grams of fat.
“ลาบวุ้นเส้นเจ” or spicy vegetarian glass noodles salad
Not too spicy but slightly bland.
One cup of glass noodles (usually made from mung bean starch) may provide up to 491 calories. It is a rich source of easily digestible carbohydrate. Vegetarian sausage is usually made from soy protein. It is a more concentrated source of protein & nutrients comparing to the same serving of tofu. One serving – 2 sausages (100 g) should provide 197 calories, 15.7 g of protein, 10.3 g of carb & 5.5 g fibre (source here). 100 g of tofu contains 70 calories, 8 g of protein, 2 g carb, 1 g fibre (source here). Both soy protein & tofu are sources of complete protein (contain all 9 essential amino acids). However, one serving of vegetarian sausage should contain at least 1 ounce (28 g, 95 calories) of soy protein isolate, which will provide 23% daily value of iron, 22% daily value of phosphorus & copper, 21% manganese & 12% folate (source here). Meanwhile, 100 g of tofu will provide 9% iron, 12% phosphorus, 11% copper & folate. Some nutritional values of one serving of tofu may be higher than of soy protein isolate, but over all, soy protein isolate still contain a higher percentage & protein content. The % of soy protein in vegetarian sausage will vary from brand to brand. It should be stated in the nutritional label.
Wood ear mushroom is a good source of iron, fibre & vitamin B12. In Chinese medicine, wood ear mushrooms are consumed for its reputed cholesterol-lowering & blood circulation properties.
ลาบ or spicy salad are often paired w/ raw vegetables i.e. cabbages, mint & basil. Raw cabbage may contain plenty of vitamins C & K, but it also contain a special sugar called raffinose, which resists digestion, ferments in the large intestine & cause gas & stomach discomfort. Raw mint & basil on the other hand aids digestion & diarrhea. Marsh mint contain essential oil menthol, which has multiple medicinal properties. Sweet basil contain medicinal properties similar to those in mint. Other than digestive properties, sweet basil also has antibacterial compounds & plenty of minerals.
This dish contains a balance of carbohydrate, protein, fibre, vitamins & minerals. But here are some words of caution: glass noodles should never be consumed in large amounts as they will cause stomach discomfort & bloating. Raw vegetables in Thailand restaurants should also be consumed in moderation as they may not be clean.
“ยำมะระ” or spicy bitter melon salad
The sauce was sweet, salty, sour & not overwhelmingly spicy. The soft blanched bitter gourd & crispy roasted cashew nuts also made for a very interesting texture contrast.
Bitter melon contains plenty of health benefits such as hypoglycemic (reduce blood-sugar levels), anti-inflammatory & cancer fighting properties. It is also very low in calories: 100 g (1/2 cup) provide 17 calories, 140% vitamin C, 18% folate & 11% fibre. In order to preserve the vitamin C in bitter melon, they are not often cooked for a long time (especially in South East & East Asian cuisine). The main benefits of cashew nuts is definitely its cholesterol-lowering unsaturated fats, iron & protein content. One ounce (28 g) serving of cashew nuts contain 157 calories, 12 g of fat, 5 g of protein, 10% iron & 20% magnesium. We need sources of unsaturated fats (best from plant foods or fish) in order to maintain optimum health i.e. brain functions & cholesterol management. Hence, nuts & seeds are highly recommended as part of a healthy diet. However, nuts, seeds & legumes contain high levels of phytic acid (more nutritionally delicious articles on phytic acid here) which interferes w/ nutrient absorption. Therefore, the best way to eat these foods is in roasted, sprouted or fermented forms (nuts sprouting experiments here). Because this dish was low in fat, sodium, sugar & contained both protein, carb, vitamins & minerals, I gave it a 4 stars.
This restaurant also provide live band performances during meal hours.
@Methavalai Sorndaeng you can enjoy Thai old-school atmosphere, great service & healthy & delicious Thai food. It is located in the Rajadamnern district & nearby tourist sites like the Democracy Monument & Khaosarn Road.