(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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