By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter
CUISINE and culture in many nations can be classified into several levels. As high culture and haute cuisine go hand-in-hand, so do home-cooking and pop culture. A restaurant called Siam Sukh Jai Thai Home Cooking in S Maison claims that they can serve Thai cuisine as it is found on the streets and homes of Bangkok.
“We don’t claim to be really hotel or high-class Thai food. Our ambition or purpose was to bring the way that Thai food [is] as my wife and I experienced it in Thailand — in the homes, and in the streets,” said the restaurant’s co-founder Digs Dimagiba (who was once Country Director for Facebook in the Philippines; he has since worked in a bank). Mr. Dimagiba shares credit for the restaurant with his wife, Des Dimagiba. Both lived in Thailand for spells in the early 2000s and the early 2010s.
“We believe that the food cooked at home, whether it’s in Thailand, or the Philippines, is actually the best kind of food,” he added during a tasting in December.
Be warned that the food is authentically hot — when this reporter went to the restaurant last month for a tasting, the heat from the dishes in Siam Sukh Jai was probably instrumental in temporary clearing up this reporter’s cold. The Thai Green Curry, for example, made me scribble “ouch” on my notes, while fresh spring rolls cooled my palate afterwards. I would advise ordering several bowls of rice to go through each dish, as well as downing them with copious amounts of milk tea. More remarkable is the traditional tom yum goong, spiced with kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and chilis. In your face and aggressive, it reminds one of the jungle.
There are several Thai restaurants in the Philippines, perhaps due to Filipino affinity for similar flavor profiles. Thai cuisine was tailor-fit to duke it out in the heat of Thailand. “When you experience Thai cooking in a hotel or someplace that’s extremely polished, the food, will, of course, be very well-polished,” said Mr. Dimagiba, speaking about the that home-cooking experience. As for food cooked in homes and the streets, he said, “Maybe it’s not as perfect… but it’s those little quirks… that tickle your palate.”
Going back to the tom yum goong, its in-your-face taste could be credited to the fact that they flew in a Thai chef as well as the spices and flavor bases for the dishes. For those items that won’t stand up to the rigors of shipping, Mr. Dimagiba planted his own — he has his own kaffir lime trees, for example.
While some people relish the beads of sweat on their lip that appear while dining, others may not, and for this, Mr. Dimagiba points them to less-challenging items in the menu. After all, he says, there are some dishes where the spiciness is part of the flavor. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t be true. And they wouldn’t experience it the way that we wanted to for them.”
Siam Sukh Jai Thai Home Cooking is at 2/L, S Maison, Marina Way, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City. For details call 821-6141.