Nara: A dance on the tastebuds

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
Nara: A dance on the tastebuds
At the Thai Select awarding of Nara Molito are (from left) 1Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero, Milka Romero, Thai Ambassador Tull Traisorat, US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson, Nara president Sheila Romero and Mandy Romero.
Photos by Bum D. Tenorio Jr.

Eating a good meal is like reciting poetry. The flavors of the food become a dance on the tastebuds.

Say, the kafir in tom ka gai (chicken in coconut soup) gives a slight burst of heaven and the creamy and mildly sweet flavor of the coconut milk seeps through the bite-size pieces of chicken breast that are already fork-tender.

To describe tom ka gai — or its equally heavenly variation tom kahed tao hoo (tofu and straw mushrooms in coconut soup) — is getting ahead of the story. First, you have to find where it is best served.

If a restaurant is a heavenly place, it can be found in Nara, a Thai restaurant in Molito in Alabang, which was given the Thai Select award by the Embassy of Thailand last Monday. Thai Select, according to its website, “is a mark of distinction awarded by the Ministry of Commerce of The Royal Thai Government to guarantee the authentic taste of Thai food products and Thai restaurants in Thailand and overseas.”

Pomelo salad.
Photos by Bum D. Tenorio Jr.

“The recognition of Nara Thai Molito with the prestigious Thai Select Award by the esteemed Embassy of Thailand is not merely a badge of honor; it is a testament to our unwavering dedication to excellence and authenticity in Thai cuisine,” Sheila Romero, president and CEO of Roku Group where the Thai restaurant belongs, told The STAR a few days before the restaurant received the award. The Thai Select seal was personally awarded to the restaurant by Thai Ambassador Tull Traisorat.

“Excellence” and “authenticity” are served in the simplicity of yum phak khom or fried spinach leaves with spicy lime sauce. There’s crunch in every bite of the appetizer; its spiciness flirts with the tastebuds. The fried spinach dish is a precursor to a glorious dining experience that awaits at the restaurant — especially when the wide, crisp leaves are dipped in lime sauce with minced pork and prawn.

A Thai friend once told me that any self-respecting Thai restaurant outside Thailand will be judged according to its serving of yum som o or pomelo salad, another bestseller at the restaurant. Blessed is the Philippines because, like Thailand, pomelo grows oh-so-sweetly on its soils. And the pomelo salad, with a hint of the distinct Thai patis, at the Thai restaurant in Molito is both refreshing and divine.

Tofu and straw mushrooms in coconut soup.

The savory Thai cuisine is a roll call of the elements of saltiness, sweetness, sourness and spiciness. It is in the delicate blend of these elements that creates a sumptuous dining indulgence. For example, the pineapple fried rice (khao pad sapparod), which is actually a riot of pineapple slices, cashew nuts, raisins, cilantro and slices of chicken breast, is paired with green beef curry (kang kiew wan nuea). A tug-of-war of sweet and savory is offered by the delicious combo. The Thai Select committee took notice of this combination and how generously it was served at Nara Molito, which started its operation in December 2022. Hence, the award.

Sheila said, “The Thai Select Award holds immense significance in the culinary world, serving as a beacon of quality and authenticity for Thai restaurants globally. It is a mark of distinction bestowed upon establishments that consistently uphold the rich culinary heritage of Thailand, showcasing the finest ingredients and techniques to deliver an unparalleled dining experience.”

She added that her love for Thai food inspired her to bring the prestigious Nara brand to the Philippines. When she found out that the presence of quality Thai cuisine was lacking in mall scenes, she opened her first Nara in Megamall in 2018. People in the south of the city clamored for the same cuisine, thus the Thai restaurant opened in Molito. The Makati branch will open its doors in July this year.

Stir-fried crab meat with yellow curry sauce.

Another dish that defines the Thai-ness of Nara is the phu phad pong karee or the stir-fried crab meat with yellow curry sauce. The crab meat is fat and succulent and it swims in the sweet-salty-tangy little pool of yellow curry sauce. Mouthwatering!

The modest stir-fried vegetables in season (phad pak ruam) becomes a piece-de-resistance when served at Nara. It goes well with the lip-smacking Phad Thai noodles with prawns and crispy egg floss.

The ingredients used in the Thai restaurant are always fresh. “And the quality cannot be compromised,” said Sheila, whose liking for good food she inherited from her mom who enrolled her in a lot of cooking classes while she was growing up. “That helped develop my taste buds to good food also,” she added.

Even the ingredients for the desserts at the restaurant are never second best. The squarish delicacy crowned with coconut milk on pandan leaf called tako (khanon tako sakoo) and the mango and sticky rice with sweetened coconut milk (khao niew ma muang) are always the proven and tested sweet endings at any Thai fare. Their sweet notes dance on the palates of the diners at Nara.

Let’s dance to that!



For your new beginnings, e-mail me at [email protected]. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend.

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