Pieces Of A Wunderkind's Mind

Snippets of Life, Love, Food, Travels, Discoveries, and Whatnot

A Better Thai Hole-In-The-Wall

on February 17, 2010

Having been a fan of Asian cuisine, Thai food naturally appeals to me. Several times I have queued for hours somewhere near Rockwell just to gorge myself on Thai cuisine. I find the play on spices, the clean taste, and the balance of flavors positively mystifying. Thai cuisine places emphasis on lightly-prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. These, besides detail and variety in Thai dishes, keep me hooked.

Chariya Thaikupt is no stranger to anyone who loves Thai food. She, a teacher of Thai cooking, has made the Philippines her home for the past 10 years, imparting her knowledge on the rudiments and exotic flavors of Thai cuisine to students [in Gene Gonzales’ Center for Asian Culinary Studies] and clients. Together with her brother Jedsada Bhamornsoot, a former chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok, Chariya put up Chariya’s Thai Kitchen — a hole-in-the-wall on Nicanor Garcia St. (formerly Reposo) in Makati [The place used to be occupied by Som’s Noodle House.] offering authentic Thai food at absolutely affordable prices. [This is actually a second branch. They first opened in the 168 Mall food court in Divisoria five years ago.]

Everything in Chariya’s Kitchen is authentic Thai. The ingredients are sourced from Bangkok — not from supermarkets but from the herb gardens and homes of Chariya’s relatives who happen to come from a lineage of cooks.

The menu was very simple, categorized into soups, curries, meats, grilled items, rice and noodles, Thai favorites, and desserts. Nothing in the menu costs more than P150 which makes it a bonus if you want to enjoy real Thai goodness without digging a hole in your pocket.

On with our orders, Francis and I chose the following:

A Thai meal would never be complete without Thai Iced Tea. It is basically a tea and evaporated milk concoction with an orange-y tinge when stirred and a distinct creamy sweetness with some spicy hints. A glass of this cost P35 only. It was so good that Francis asked for a second glass.

We opted to try the Crispy Catfish Salad, one of the bestsellers, for our appetizer. Francis was having second thoughts on getting this but ended up agreeing to give it a try. He did not regret his decision. The catfish flakes were surprisingly not oily at all and delightfully crisp atop a bed of fine green mango slices and chili. It was actually addictive. It became our favorite for the night. At P130, this salad was such a steal.

We wanted soup — as well as to compare their soup with that of the other Thai joint we used to eat in. So instinctively, we asked for Tom Yum. Their version, too, was characterized by its distinct hot and sour flavors, with fragrant herbs generously used. But theirs was way spicier than that of Som’s… and we liked that. The use of fresh ingredients was evident in the broth. It contained 2 tiger prawns, deveined and sweet.

Chicken Wrapped in Pandan Leaves at P140 is another classic Thai number we had for dinner. The leaves kept the juices of the chicken plus the marinade inside so we got very juicy and tender fried chicken. It came with a dark sauce [probably made from tamarind juice, soy sauce. and sugar] that enhanced the chicken’s flavor and increased our satisfaction altogether.

We got the Red Curry in beef. This is another popular Thai recipe consisting of shrimp paste to which coconut milk is added. Despite the name, this curry does not contain any curry powder or dried spices. The main ingredients are garlic, shallots, red chillies, galangal, salt, kaffir lime peel, lemongrass, and meat. Since I don’t eat anything with coconut milk, I did not enjoy this. But I was willing enough to try it, though. Francis found the coconut milk too overwhelming. He said it could have been more enjoyable if cooked with less gata. We weren’t able to finish this. The Red Curry was priced at P150.

I courageously ordered the Bagoong Fried Rice to complement the viands we got. Yes, it entailed courage to actually ask for something I do not eat or do not even consider to eat. I was game that night. And since I decided to try coconut milk for the first time there, I thought, I might as well taste bagoong. I was on a roll. It was like hitting two birds with one stone. The rice came with cured sweet meat, egg, and slices of green mango. Peculiarly, the distinct pungent smell of bagoong was not present. I wasn’t that repelled so I moved on to take a spoonful. It had this weird fishy taste that made me a bit nauseous. It was then that I decided to order a bowl of plain steamed rice for myself. Bagoong just wasn’t for me the same way that I wasn’t made for bagoong. Well, at least, I knew.

To describe the fare Chariya’s Thai Kitchen offers is same as saying that it is honest-to-goodness Thai comfort food that you can get for prices that will keep you coming back for more without having to dress fancy.

Chariya’s Thai Kitchen
1776 N. Garcia St. (formerly Reposo St.) corner Milagros St., Makati
Telephone Number: 382-1616



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