One of the world’s best loved cuisines, the delicate yet intense flavors of Thai food can be found almost everywhere in Metro Manila.

No food like street food

When fresh first-time Thailand visitors aren’t speaking of the interesting activities happening in Bangkok’s infamous Red Light District, they’re raving about the food—street food, that is. The street, apparently, is Thailand’s dining room. A friend who lives in Bangkok, says, “If you’re craving for REALLY good Thai food, don’t go to a restaurant that’s air-conditioned.”

The same holds true for Makati’s version of lean, mean (non air-conditioned) Thai cuisine, represented by Chariya’s Thai Kitchen. Located along the stretch of Nicanor Garcia Street, Chariya’s Thai Kitchen lets you experience authentic Thai gastronomic pleasures, Bangkok style. Their tom yum shrimp (P140) and crispy catfish salad (P130), which they served on top of a bed of green mango, are must-tries—both perfectly balance the four fundamental flavors Thai dishes are known for—sweet, sour, salty, and spicy.

Chariya’s also serves a wide selection of curries; I got to try their green curry chicken (P130), which is said to be the spiciest among Thai curries, and paired it with their bagoong fried rice (P120) and stir-fried beef with basil (P150). Of course, a Thai meal wouldn’t be complete without phad thai, and the one in Chariya’s pulled a fast one on me—I’ve been craving for it since. For dessert, I got to taste the best Thai halo-halo—instead of the hodge-podge version we know (and love), Thai halo-halo (P60) is less complicated as it uses only three key ingredients: langka, Chariya’s homemade water chestnuts, and fresh coconut milk. Definitely a sweet ending.

Everything in Chariya’s is authentic Thai—starting with the brother-sister tandem who owns the place, Chefs Chariya Thaikupt (yes, there is a Chariya) and Jedsada (a.k.a Chef Joke) Bhamornsoot . Chariya has been in the Philippines since 1986, and has shared her love of her home cuisine with Filipinos by acting as consultant to different Thai restaurants in the metro, and by teaching Thai Cooking at the Center for Asian Culinary Studies. Chef Joke has worked in the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok, and between him and his equally culinary-savvy sister, guests at Chariya’s Thai Kitchen are definitely in for a treat. –Tricia V. Morente

Chariya’s Thai Kitchen is located at1776 N. Garcia St. (formerly Reposo) corner Milagros St., Makati City. Call (2) 382 1616 for inquiries and delivery within the Makati area. Prices range from P120 to P200 per person.

A bite into Siam

Inspired by owner and restaurateur Al Purugganan’s countless visits to Thailand, Jatujak, which gets its name from the famous Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, comes as a welcome relief for those of us who crave Thai food but are overwhelmed by the expensive prices of most of Manila’s fine-dining Thai restaurants.

“I’ve always enjoyed Thai food,” begins Al, “especially the ones in Chatuchak where you see rows and rows of food stalls serving an assortment of yummy Thai noodles, curries, and desserts. This was my inspiration for Jatujak. I wanted to capture the street-side appeal of Thai cuisine and bring it home to the Philippines.”

Indeed, Al has succeeded in doing exactly that, as Jatujak lays claim to a cozy and inviting dining experience that’s totally value-for-money—from its warmly lit interiors to the appetizing meals meticulously prepared by its resident Thai chef. Jatujak is also quite the innovator when it comes to the food. For some dishes, Filipino ingredients are used, making it more appealing to the local palate. Jatujak uses gata in its curries, like in most Bicolano dishes; the tom yum is also quite similar to our local sinigang, except for the addition of other spices like kaffir (lime) leaves, galangal, and wansuey (coriander). Al believes that the reason why pinoys love Thai food so much is that it is quite similar to ours.

Their menu offers a wide range of Thai favorites. Their yam som o (P210), pomelo and prawn salad, was a perfect blend of sweet and sour, with just a faint hint of spicy. The kaeng nua (P245), or red curry beef, was so spicy I almost finished the twelve-inch-tall glass of yummy Thai iced tea I ordered with my meal. The pad thai (P80), on the other hand, was more catered to the pinoy palate, as it tastes sweeter than most. My favorite, though, would have to be their pla rad prik (P280), which is fish fillet topped with chili garlic sauce; and this coming from someone who’s admittedly not a fish person. Of course, dessert will always have room in my tummy, even with the ton of food I’ve already consumed. I got a taste of the classic Thai dessert—kao niew mamuang (P85), or sticky rice with mango, which vanished as quickly as it was served.

Jatujak first opened its doors to the public three years ago with its first branch in Mall of Asia. It has opened two more restaurants since, the latest one tucked in a cozy corner of SM Megamall’s Building A. Who knew good Thai food was this easily accessible?

Jatujak is located at G/F, SM Megamall Building A, Ortigas Center; 2/F SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City; and SM North Edsa’s The Block, Quezon City, Metro Manila.

Published in HIPP Magazine, June 2009.