Burning hot!

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

SPICES, lots of spices, and the king of them all... chili peppers. It was a feast for the spice-inclined as we were brought around just about every must-visit restaurant that there is to try in Bangkok. Back home after four tongue-scorching days meant several pounds more on the hips and taste buds so scorched, Filipino food (even Bicol) tasted bland.

All throughout the trip sponsored by Cebu Pacific (CEB) and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), food played a major part, and so this will just be a peek into the first two outings. We do not want you to be stuffed full of our food stories such that you will no longer appreciate their look and feel and texture, and yes... spiciness.

You get a hint of how spicy they can make their food just by looking at all the intricate carvings all over town. The reds and yellows everywhere somehow remind you of... chili peppers, at their very hottest. But with all those spices and fresh ingredients, you'd forget all your worries, and the calories and just gorge. I was reserving tummy space by not munching in between meals.

First night, dinner at the 78th floor of Baiyoke (pronounced Bayok, drop the "e") Sky Hotel. It's one huge dinner place that goes around the building that is jam-packed with people you'd only see in Davao when the city is hosting a huge convention or Kadayawan season... and this is just one restaurant.

It's buffet and it has a sampling of different cuisines, but since I'm in Bangkok, it's Thai food: pad thai, fresh seafood, and a pudding-looking fish and curry concoction cooked in small banana leaf cups. There I discovered the best "sawsawan" ever... spicy celery sauce. Just a reminder, spicy in this part of the world means hot, super hot. Soup? Tom Yum. The food is good and I like the fact that they were cooking the pad Thai right where you get it, that was one for a newbie. But Baiyoke is really for the experience of being in Bangkok's tallest building. We got our real Thai food treat the following day at lunch. That dinner, however, taught us that Yam Bean is not a bean nor is it a fruit. Displayed along with sliced melons and papayas and guavas were slices of white yam beans, which Ian realized after biting into a slice, is nothing but "singkamas". Later into the trip, Ian would get to know rose apple.

Up on the 83rd floor at the Rooftop Bar I tasted my first Singha Beer. Singha is Thailand's beer. It's mild, much like San Mig Light with just a teeny-weeny bit more bitterness.

Lunch the next day was at Ban Khun Mae Thai Cuisine, an old wooden house turned into a restaurant that proudly declares: we're Thais, we are hot! You get that implicit message the moment you enter the restaurant and see the bowls of spicy sauces by the door.

The adventure continued, again topped with super-spicy tom yum soup. There I tried Bael Juice because that was the only juice that sounded strange. It tasted like... sugar cane. I later learned that Bael is also called stone apple, so named because of its woody shell and that it is steeped in rituals and medicinal value. Hindsight is indeed 20/20, I learned that after the trip.

The table was overflowing with chicken in pandan leaves, this steamed seafood curry served in a buko, shrimp cake, and more pad Thai, the crunch and zing of which I can't get enough of. There's the fish crisps and some cute stuff in crunchy cups.

This restaurant is a real treat. Anyone who visits Bangkok should check this out for some quick Thai Cuisine 101. No wonder it's top on the list of CEB's Ms Viveca Singson and TAT Philippine marketing representative Dave de Jesus. Viv was raving all about it at the very start, and we soon found out that she had every reason to.

The ripe mango with sticky rice that wrapped up the meal was an enticing invitation to try some more... after everything has been digested. With that, we end Thai Cuisine 101 for the day. Bye!

Ooopsss... where is it? It's at Siam Square at Patumwan District in Bangkok, a place made up of small boutiques in an airy architecture.

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