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The Tale of Two Peppers: Spicy Food at Erawan Thai Cuisine


Courtesy of Erawanphilly.comWhen you enter the modest storefront at 23rd and Sansom on a weeknight you may think you just discovered a hidden Philadelphia gem. Come back on a weekend, however, and you’ll find a totally different scene. Much loved for its affordable, delicious food, low-key atmosphere, BYOB policy and proximity to University City, this restaurant can be packed with college students any given weekend. But don’t let that deter you; the spicy Ambrosial Thai food is tremendous. Come early, come late, make reservations, or try a weeknight when they also feature pre-fix specials.

Erawan distinguishes the levels of spiciness as one, two or three hot peppers. One pepper is “mild with a little sting.” Two peppers is described as “awakening” and three peppers is “volcanic hot.” The first time I ate at Erawan, I was desperately seeking spice. I asked for two peppers, figuring two peppers was the medium level. The waitress came back to confirm, “Are you sure you want two peppers?” I consented, but as soon as she left I started to worry. Did I not look like the type of person who could handle even two peppers? When my dish arrived, I understood her concern. It was more than medium hot. It was certainly awakening. And it was delicious. 

“It” was the Pad Ka Pow or “Holy Basil Supreme” and comes highly recommended ($11.95 for chicken, beef, pork, tofu or veggie $13.95 for shrimp and $15.95 for the seafood combo of shrimp, squid and scallops). Thai basil has a little bit more of a tang to it than does Italian basil. This dish is simmered in a garlic sauce and has a lovely pungency to it. If you like spice, try two peppers. I've been back and ordered two again, but next time I may shoot for 1.5! 

Courtesy of Erawanphilly.comIn addition to the Pad Ka Pow, Erawan has a fantastic array of specialities –listed as Erawan “Favorites” on the menu. They all range in the $11.95-$15.95 price categories and can be made to order. Other favorites include Pad Ginger (similar dish with a ginger flavor instead of garlic), Pad Cashew Nuts, Enlightened Bamboo, Shrimp Asparagus, and Pottery Shrimp (baked with bean thread noodles in a clay pot).

Erawan is also well-known for their variety of curries –Red, Yellow, Green, Panang, Massaman—all of which have their own subtleties and interest, and can all be made with chicken, beef, pork, tofu, veggie, shrimp and or the seafood combo of shrimp, squid and scallops. A unique curry dish is the Mango or Pineapple Yellow Curry, which is listed on the vegetarian menu but you can add whatever you like as it is made to order. The sweet mango or pineapple flavors are a welcome respite from the spiciness of the hot chili peppers and add another level to the dish.

For starters, the soups (Tom Yum and Tom Kha) are superb. Made with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, the soups are delightful blend of spice and savory flavors. The appetizer list is tantalizing enough to comprise your whole meal. Particular favorites include the Thai Sausage, the Thai Spring Rolls, and the Thai-riffic Golden Tofu.

To cool your taste buds off, you can order a Thai Ice tea and definitely try the Green Tea Ice Cream for dessert.

Erawan offers pre-fix 3 course meals and a variety of specials. To see what is being offered currently, please visit their website at: http://www.erawanphilly.com/index.html and check out their coupons at: http://www.erawanphilly.com/forYou.html. And remember, its BYOB!






123 S. 23rd St.

(23rd and Sansom St.)

Philadelphia, PA 19103

Tel. 215-567-2542

Fax. 215-567-0310




Mon -Fri 11:30am - 3:00pm

Sat 12:30pm - 4:30pm


Sun - Thurs 4:30pm - 10:00pm

Fri - Sat 4:30pm - 10:30pm