Different degrees of spice at Just Thai (GMA News Online)

Yam Neua (beef salad)

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last July 24, 2014)

My fondest memory of sampling true Thai food was in the streets of Bangkok where I had my first taste of authentic pad Thai. I didn’t speak the local dialect so I just communicated with the vendor through sign language, and I ended up eating the spiciest stir-fried noodles I have ever tasted — so hot that my eyes teared up at my first bite.
As much as I would want to replicate that food experience, I find it challenging to do so as there aren’t a lot of good Thai restaurants here in Metro Manila. I encountered one that closely resembles the real thing although it has been around for four years already.

Just Thai may not be new in the restaurant scene but I was only able to eat there recently after I overcame my feeling of intimidation. You see, I associate Thai food with street food, not with swanky dining destinations. When I finally had the opportunity to dine there, I realized that I was wrong not to try it earlier. But, like they say, it’s better late than never.

Filipino spicy or Thai spicy?
I felt a comfortable vibe upon entering the establishment. Just Thai was a cozy restaurant that was neither too casual nor too upscale. The wooden furnishing and muted red tones of the interiors made me feel relaxed. I immediately checked out the menu that listed a variety of Thai offerings and I was grateful for the English translations with matching dish descriptions.
Of course, I wanted to sample one of Thailand’s most iconic dishes, tom yum, a hot and sour soup with prawns. But before our server placed our order, he asked how spicy we wanted it. I discovered that the restaurant could customize the spice levels of all the dishes. Typically, Filipinos go for mildly spicy only but my lunch mates and I went for the truly hot and spicy. Indeed, it was so.
With every spoonful, I tasted the combination of complex flavors — sour, spicy, and the strong taste of cilantro. It was actually like any other tom yum I tasted.

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