Moo Baan by Krung Thai Cooks Tasty Thai Food the Traditional Way
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Beatriz Victorino Srimata advocates cooking food the traditional way. Doing so will make the food healthier and the tastes even better.
“Marikenos have very particular taste buds. They are also known to use the traditional way of cooking like using palayok (earthen pot) and the sinaunang lutuan na uling (charcoal stove). I do the same in Thailand. I do the same here. As much as possible, we use the traditional way of cooking,” says Beatriz or Tita Betty, the owner of Moo Baan by Krung Thai (roughly translates to Thai Village), which serves traditional Thai food at Marikina Heights in Marikina.
Moo Baan springs from Krung Thai, which first opened 24 years ago in Brgy. Sta. Elena in Marikina near the public market.
“We use earthen vessels to cook the soup. We don’t use food processors. We don’t use additives. Our ingredients are processed by hand. We pound some of them. Even the tea. We dry the leaves under the sun. Then dehydrate it. Then we pound the leaves. Then cook it. It’s a very tedious process, but the effect is good for the health,” says Tita Betty.
It’s a rainy afternoon on a still summer day and Tita Betty is regaling us with colorful stories about food, Marikina, where she was born and raised, the shoe industry, her adventures in Thailand as an adult married to a Thai, and her dream of seeing a floating market like the one in Thailand in the Marikina river.
She tells us stories using a mix of English and Filipino, a typical colegiala, amid the sound of food being ordered and served, other diners coming in and leaving the restaurant whose interiors are inspired by Thailand.
Tita Betty, who looks way younger than 60, does the interview while slicing calamansi that she will use to wash fish and chicken. She says this is her morning routine. She comes down (she lives just upstairs) to the restaurant at around 9 in the morning and prepare the ingredients for cooking. After slicing the calamansi, she says she will wrap the spring rolls later on.
First Authentic Thai Resto in Marikina
To capture the authentic tastes of Thai food, the restaurant only uses ingredients such as soy sauce, fish sauce imported from Thailand. Tita Betty says she also grows her own Thai herbs (galingale or krachai, kaffir, bergamot) and fruits like papaya and dayap in her mother’s farm in San Ysiro in nearby Antipolo.
“Krung Thai is the first authentic Thai restaurant in Marikina. It’s not fusion. We use a lot of Thai ingredients. Even our patis (fish sauce), toyo (soy sauce), mushroom sauce are from Thailand. We don’t use local ingredients because we don’t want to compromise the nutritional value of the food,” she says.
“Our papaya is from Thailand. We planted it here. We have dayap from Thailand, which we grow and harvest from our farm here,” Tita Betty adds.
Because of this, Krung Thai immediately gained a following. Diners are not only the Marikenos, but people from other places in Metro Manila, as well as from other parts of Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao. Even tourists from other countries look for Krung Thai.
In October 2016, Tita Betty opened Moo Baan by Krung Thai in Marikina Heights, a walking distance from Ayala Mall in Marikina. Just like its predecessor, the restaurant has become a favorite among Thai food lovers.
“I’m very happy because in such a short time, we already have customers who are from Novaliches, BGC (Bonifacio Global City), Ayala Alabang who come here to dine. They found us through Google and waze,” she says, laughing.
“There are those who came from Cebu, Bacolod, Ilo-ilo. There was someone from Kalibo Aklan, who studied Thai cooking from me. We have Europeans too. A chef from England once came here asking for the recipe of my fried chicken. I did not give it. I said this dish is only for the Filipinos,” she adds.
One time, a Canadian tourist dropped by, saying Moo Baan was recommended by his friends from Canada who had dined here.
Attesting to its authentic Thai flavors, officials and staff from the Thai Embassy in Manila are frequent diners here as well, she says.
“I was so happy that they made an effort to come here. I really like to promote Marikina as a tourism district,” she says.
Famous Thai Dishes
Tita Betty says she loves to cook. It’s her passion, she adds. She learned how to cook from her mother-in-law when she and her husband lived in Thailand.
When she and her husband, whom she met when she studied in Thailand when she was young, single and adventurous, came home in the 90’s, she decided to put up a Thai restaurant in Marikina, the city where she was born and grew up. Her mother used to own a shoe factory, where she used to tie laces on shoes and earn 10 centavos per pair.
When the shoe factory was shut down, Tita Betty says her mother opened up a hardware store where she honed her skills managing a business. She took up not just one but two courses in college and finished them both: hotel and restaurant management and electrical engineering, reflecting her varied interests.
Going back to the restaurant, she says almost all of the items on the menu are bestsellers: tom yum soup, the green and red curry, the rice (bagoong, seafood, crabmeat, beef, garlic and fried), the salads (green mango, vegetable, squid, seafood and lap mu or spicy beef salad). For the main course, people like its pakbung (kangkong in Tagalog and morning glory in English), the fried chicken, the satays, the barbecued liempo and stir fried vegetables with seafood.
“Our curry is very nice. Red is not so maanghang (spicy) and the green is very maanghang,” she says. “And then our famous fried chicken is very masarap (delicious). Our customers usually combine it with papaya salad or cucumber salad. Our papaya is from Thailand. It’s mahaba (long) and hindi madagta (there is not much sap).
No wonder then that customers love the relatively new restaurant, which has a spacious parking lot, unlike its Sta. Elena location in Bayan.
“(I) was here yesterday (Marikina Heights branch). Got to try the bagoong rice for the first time. It was good! It went well with mango salad and adobo as ulam. Beautiful presentation too. I’v e been coming to Krung Thai for years at its Bayan branch. This place has never failed to provide the best tasting food…One of my go-to restaurants if anyone asks where to eat,” wrote a happy customer on its Facebook page.
Tita Betty loves to share, not just food and stories but her cooking skills as well. She used to teach Thai cooking at the other Krung Thai restaurant in Sta. Elena.
In her new spacious place that can sit up to 70 persons (the older restaurant can accommodate only up to 40), she plans to open up a coffee shop outside serving Thai coffee and its famous Thai iced milk tea and snacks. She plans to serve desserts already found in her restaurant such as the sticky rice with mango.
At the moment, the future site of the coffee shop is occupied by a tent in the garden just outside of the restaurant, where a giant mango tree lords over other plants. The tent displays the Thai-made blouses, sundresses, and other stuff that she also sells.
Hearing her describe the preparation for the sticky rice and other snacks she plans to serve in her coffee shop makes us crave for it: “We use sticky rice from Thailand and cooked it with pandan or blue flower or with jasmine.”
When the rain stopped, we called it a day. But not without first sampling some of the restaurant’s offerings such as the famous bagoong rice, crabmeat rice, all-time favorite fried chicken, tom yum soup, papaya salad, which we all washed with its thirst quenching and cooling chilled Thai milk tea. They are not only good, but home cooked delicious, a testament to Tita Betty’s painstaking efforts to enhance the Filipinos’ appreciation as well as their experience of savoring Thai cuisine.
76 Block 5, Liwasang Kalayaan, Marikina Heights, Marikina City
(02) 634 9386
Monday to Sunday
10:30am to 3pm and then reopens at 6:00pm to 9:30pm
For more about Moo Ban by Krung Thai, check out its Facebook page:
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