Saturday, May 23, 2009

Siam and spice

"Siam and spice"
Sun.Star Davao, May 23, 2009

They say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.

It simply means that “when you are visiting a new place, you should try to do as the people do who are from the place”.

And, you can’t go wrong with experiencing the true essence of a culture than trying out the locals’ favorite food.

Mompreneur Carmina Mapa-Del Rosario had such fond memories of her growing up years in Bangkok (where she studied in an international school during her teens) that when she and her husband Raffy decided to open their own business in Davao, they immediately thought of a Thai restaurant aptly named Bangkok Wok.

But, unlike other Thai restaurants in the city, Bangkok Wok prides itself in serving Thai cuisine in its “most authentic and unpretentious form”---Bangkok street food prepared by its very own Thai cook, Chef Tum.

“I grew up surrounded by food and foodies. And I’m lucky to be born into a family of travellers. Growing up in Bangkok was fun, but not as exciting as the food I discovered. 

Eating in Bangkok was always an adventure and even if we had access to the best restaurants, I preferred the streets of Bangkok”, Carmina reminisces.

“Vendors set up clusters of stalls, transforming major street corners, empty lots and alleys into lively food bazaars. Being in the midst of it all helped me understand their culture and way of life. The streets were alive with so much activity! It was truly a hodgepodge of so many flavors and spices—I don’t think I’ll ever forget the noise, the aroma, and the taste of Bangkok”, she happily shares.

During its opening early this month, my husband Gary and I, together with other invited guests indulged in the exotic flavors of Siam as we sampled Thai specialties such as Pad Thai (stir-fried noodles Thai style), Sate Chicken with peanut sauce, Pho Phia Sod (vegetarian fresh spring rolls), Yam Pla Duk Foo (crispy catfish with mango salad) and Tod Mun Pla (fried fish cake) for cocktails.

While catching up with acquaintances and old friends, we sipped the refreshing Tamarind Shake which was such a welcome treat for that humid evening.

Carmina came over to our table and we chatted for a while. The charming hostess disclosed that after graduating from high school in Bangkok, she studied in Boston where she graduated with a degree in Communications.

“I then pursued a very hectic and stressful career in advertising for many years but my love for Thai food was always there. In fact, when my husband and I were living in Manhattan for 5 years, we had to have Thai food 3 times a week. But it didn’t even come close to the Bangkok I knew. It just wasn’t the same so when we decided to move to Davao we knew we had to re-create this experience for us”, Carmina divulges.

“There’s a misconception that Thai food is generally spicy. But, this is not true. Some of our specialties are not spicy at all and can be enjoyed by the whole family”, clarifies Carmina.
At Bangkok Wok, Carmina introduces Dabawenyos to new dishes such as the “Yang”, a Thai twist to the regular ihaw or sugba fare which goes perfectly well with the Som Tam (a spicy salad with shredded papaya).

Other highly recommended dishes include the Tom Yum Goong (hot sour shrimp soup), Tom Kha Gai (chicken with coconut soup), Gai Hor Bai Toey (chicken in pandan leaves), Kaeng Nua (red beef curry), Kana Moo Grob (stir-fried kangkong with crispy pork), Kao Kluk Gapi (bagoong rice), Kaeng Hua Pla (yellow fish head curry) and Ba-Mee Krob Rad Na (crispy noodles with chicken and shrimp).

Gary and I enjoyed our first Bangkok Wok experience that we returned to the place with high school friends for my belated birthday dinner the next day.

We were quite impressed with the avant-garde interiors, which was uniquely different from the other Thai restaurants in the city. The hip orange-colored couches and lights gave life and excitement to the gray walls and modern steel chairs.

The well-appointed interiors stems from Carmina’s exposure to Old Asia, their family-owned antique shop in Manila.

Our group ordered some of the specialties that Carmina mentioned during the opening. Service was courteous and efficient and the servings were good for two to three people. Most importantly, the food was superb and reasonably priced.

When Carmina and Raffy arrived at the restaurant, they did not hesitate to personally take down orders, serve water and wipe the tables themselves. From time to time, Carmina would drop by various tables to check how the customers liked the food. She even surprised us with a complimentary Tako (tapioca in pandan cups) to cap our lovely meal.

Aside from being hands-on with their business, I was totally in awe of their down-to-earth nature in spite of being a part of one of Davao’s more prominent families.

With the Del Rosarios’ warm hospitality, fresh ingredients from Thailand and a Thai chef to boot, Carmina and Raffy guarantee that their latest pride and joy is “nothing short of eating in a restaurant in the heart of Thailand, sans the hassle of travelling”.

Siam and spice and everything nice...that’s Bangkok Wok!

Bangkok Wok is located at Robinsons Cybergate, J.P. Laurel Ave., Davao City. Tel. 2821231/Mobile no. (0928)5053605. E-mail address:

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