I have to confess: I’m rather picky when it comes to noodles. I prefer soups and broths with my noodles, hence, my love for ramen. But I do enjoy stir-fried noodles from time to time, and one of these types that I like the most is pad thai.
For the uninitiated, pad thai is one of the national dishes of Thailand. This stir-fried noodle dish is popular as street food served in local eateries. It is known as one of the examples of Thailand’s aromatic, flavor-heavy cuisine. For this, pad thai was once hailed as number 5 on CNN Go’s World’s 50 most delicious foods readers’ poll in 2011.
My last food raid for 2014 happened a few days after Christmas. Maridel, one of my online friends, asked me one night if I knew any good Thai restaurants, saying she was interested in Thai cuisine. Without thinking, I asked her out for a late lunch at SM City North EDSA “at a Thai place I noticed some time ago.”
That “Thai place” was “Soi Eat Thai, Love Thai”, which was incidentally on its soft opening when I first saw it. It’s a casual Thai restaurant inside and out, with no fancy or elaborate Thai-themed decorations, but which exudes a homey, relaxing atmosphere. Suited as a family restaurant, I may say.
Without further ado, we dug into our immediate orders: Pad Thai Chicken, Chicken in Green Curry (I spotted something with red curry, but I thought something too spicy would ruin our lunch), Crabmeat Fried Rice, and shakes – Pandan Coconut Lychee and Vanilla Thai Tea- for drinks.
The pad thai was served with a scrambled egg net, presumably to lock in the aroma and flavors. And what a myriad of flavors it had – the firm, semi-oily rice noodles are swimming in a sweet-spicy flavor. The tofu and chicken toppings are light to the palate, and the mildly salty stir-fried vegetables maintain the balanced flavor of the whole dish.
The whole serving was reasonably priced and heavy for two, despite us being heavy eaters. There’s also a shrimp variety for those who would like a seafoody flavor with their noodles.
Fast forward to 2015. The crew of “Foods Tayo” visited Thai Dara, a small but popular Thai restaurant at Kapitolyo in Pasig. Our target: pad thai, of course.
Thai Dara’s pad thai, also their best-seller (of course), was voted by Spot.ph as one of the “Top 3 Best Pad Thai” in Manila. It was during the cooking demo prepared by the staff that I understood why, along with the inner workings of a pad thai.
The pad thai is cooked with alamang, leeks, tofu, ground peanuts, paprika, and a special noodle sauce that gives the whole dish a light, sweet-spicy-tangy flavor. The noodles are firm and light to the palate, but quite filling.
One would have to wait for around five to ten minutes, but seeing that warm, sweet-smelling plate of noodles being served before you is worth the wait.
It’s worth noting that Thai Dara is a really small place, but it looks more like one of those small Thai sidewalk eateries, which enhances the dining experience. It also helps that the owners, both Thai cooks, have committed to maintain the authentic taste of the dishes served here. It’s like dining in Bangkok, so they say.
Maridel would later on tell me that she liked the pad thai back at Soi. I’m now trying my best to remind myself to make time to take her to Thai Dara. Maybe she’d appreciate the pad thai there. While I’m at it, maybe I should look into pad thai and Thai cuisine a bit deeper. There should be other pad thai places that I can check someday. Hopefully, my funds could allow me that luxury, though.