I have always loved Thai cuisine. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I grew up in Bicol, where the cuisine is spicy and milky, owing to the prominent use of coconut milk and chilies that abound in the region. Some of the foreign travelers I have talked with and who have tasted Bicol cuisine swear it is comparable with Thai and Indian food. Maybe that explains the fixation I have for Thai food.
When I was still in college and my weekly allowance will allow it, I find myself heading to the back of Asian Center, along Balara, where Mama Thai is bustling with students who love her Thai dishes at such reasonable prices. Mama Thai has closed since and I learned from an acquaintance in UP Diliman, whose former student was a good friend of Mama Thai’s daughter, that Mama Thai is now back in Bangkok for good.
When I was frequently traveling to Iloilo, I have heard of a hole-in-the-wall place in front of Jaro Market that serves authentic Thai cuisine, carinderia-style, that locals frequent for its cheap price. In fact I went to the place twice, but it was always full with people and their food runs out easily.
So when I stumbled upon Peppy Thai Deli at the Plazuela de Iloilo during my last trip to Iloilo City last August, I made sure I finally got a taste of it. The hole-in-the-wall Thai carinderia in front of Jaro Market now finds home in the spanking Plazuela, which is just beside SM City. But judging by the look of Peppy Thai Deli, it certainly still has that carinderia feel that makes eating a little more enjoyable. Only that, of course, here, air-conditioning is an added bonus.
Peppy Thai employs that unmistakable turo-turo dining experience where customers point at the food on display that they want to order. The place is actually very spartan, and a little bit confused in terms of its feel (the buri hat which serves as your order number obviously does not tie well with the glass counter, the orange-painted wall, and the food offered), but people who frequent the place know that they are here for the food.
Which, I will say, is actually very good. I mean, what is the chance that you will find a good Thai food in Iloilo, which is so rich with its own flavor and cuisine, right?
I actually dined here twice last August, once during lunch, and then at dinner, and I can tell the place is very popular among the locals. I couldn’t find a seat the first time I came here and had to actually share with two older women because I was running late for our trip to Cuyo, in Palawan.
I ordered khao pat which is fried rice served with sunny-side up egg (PhP75), khai-op-bai-tuoey which is pandan chicken (PhP45), and a really, really mouthwatering and spicy pork loin salad (I forgot its Thai name) for PhP75. I liked the food so much that when our trip was cancelled, I came back at 5:30 pm to sample more dishes.
First on my table was this khai luk khuey or sweet and sour egg (PhP45). It looked really appetizing but since I am not a big fan of this poultry product, I did not rave about it. The price was also a little bit expensive.
Since I am a big eater, I ordered the khao pat once again but I noticed this time that the rice was a little hard and not as tasty as the one I had over lunch. I learned, although belatedly, that customers can actually opt not to have the sunny-side up egg.
This papered squid or plamuk phen (PhP3/gram) was interesting. And since squid is my favorite, you can expect that I liked it. This squid flake had a sweet and peppery taste to it.
Now, this moo-yang or grilled pork with peanut sauce (PhP34/stick) was a surprise. It looked ordinary but the peanut sauce had a little spank that made it different from the usual pork barbecue.
I then ate this stir fried tofu dish or phat-pet (PhP72) which I found to be really spicy and tangy. At this point, I was feeling a little full already but I still had to taste two more dishes.
This beef red curry dish or keng panaeng (PhP89) was a stand out. Just like how I wanted my Thai food to taste – spicy and milky. And it was served generously. This bowlful of hot, tender beef meat was just delicious!
But the best dish that night was this kwi-tiew heng or dry rice noodles (PhP84). The noodles were cooked really well, not sloppy or saggy, just perfect for a meal that has a zesty taste to it. It was sweet and nippy and just scrumptious!
When I had lunch earlier, one of the two old women I shared table with suggested that I order this one. Good thing I heeded her recommendation. You can also choose to have this dish served with soup (price is the same).
If only for this food and that really yummy pork loin salad, I will go back to Peppy Thai over and over again.
Iloilo City is definitely one of the best places in the Philippines that you should visit if you want to have a good time eating. Peppy Thai Deli provides that extra oomph to the local dining scene. So if you’ve had enough of la paz batchoy and kansi in this city, you may want to give this Thai carinderia a try.
Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust! 😀
- All photographs taken on August 2012 with a Canon 550d.