The first Thai restaurant I visited a few decades ago was Flavors and Spices in Makati. It was owned by Ad Lim, and manning the kitchen were Thai chefs. I found the food unique and extremely delicious. It didn’t take long before Filipinos fell for the Thai food craze.
Another Thai restaurant was called One, in Mile Long, owned by Olivia Romulo. Head chef was a woman. It was always packed.
In the early 1990s, my mom Nora Daza opened Mai Thai in Edsa Central and it did very well. I also opened a Mai Thai outlet at Robinsons Galleria and Glorietta 4.
To cut costs and to make my food affordable, we used local ingredient-counterparts such as patis, soy sauce, vinegar, oyster sauce, bagoong and sugar. All those worked at the time.
But when travel overseas became affordable to Filipinos, things changed. They were able to experience authentic Thai food in Bangkok and began to make comparisons.
Today there are only two authentic-tasting Thai restaurants in the Philippines. One of them is in a hotel, and the other, which I discovered recently, is Nara Thai at Mega Fashion Hall.
We started with crispy fried shrimp cakes, fish cakes, pomelo salad, and papaya salad. Every dish was delicious, authentic-tasting and comparable to the best fine-dining Thai places in Bangkok.
I was familiar with most dishes, but a new one was the deep-fried crispy prawn pancake. It was crunchy, chewy and delicious.
A personal indicator on whether a Thai restaurant is good is through its Phad Thai. Nara Thai’s version was damn delicious!
Also outstanding was its Tom Yum Goong. It was sour, salty, spicy and mildly sweet from the coconut milk.
All the fried rice dishes were good, too. While many Thai restaurants in Manila might put bagoong alamang in its fried bagoong rice, Nara Thai uses Thai bagoong.
Its curries were made from curry paste that was a league of its own. I loved in particular the green chicken curry, which was perfectly creamy and tender, with the flavor of lemon grass and Thai basil. One should enjoy it with a lot of steamed rice.
The Massam beef curry was fine as well. I loved the butterfly fried pla-pla with the spicy, sweet and sour wansoy sauce on the side.
And to lessen the guilt, we ate a great-tasting version of the Thai kangkong.
For desserts, the Tub Tim Krob (singkamas covered in gelatin and dipped in coconut syrup) was delectable but lacked syrup.
I also enjoyed the durian ice cream and sticky rice with mango and salted coconut sauce on top.
I was informed that most of the ingredients are flown directly from Thailand. What surprised me was that the menu prices were quite reasonable.
I learned that the place is actually a franchise of one of the best restaurants in Bangkok. Which explains the authenticity and superior taste of its food. Nara Thai is highly recommended.
Nara Thai is at 3/F, Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong. Tel. 6373860
I will hold another Japan food tour on Feb. 17-22, 2019.
Coverage is Fukuoka, Hiroshima and Osaka. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.