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    Tastes of Thailand, Asia brimming over on Asheville restaurant's new menu

    By Tiana Kennell, Asheville Citizen Times,

    2024-06-14

    ASHEVILLE - Thai cuisine goes deeper than the Pad Thai dish, and a family of restaurateurs welcomes U.S. diners to take a tasting tour of the newly revamped menu of authentic Thailand dishes and original recipes at Pad Thai Asheville.

    “I want people to come here and say that this is real Thai food not just Pad Thai or Drunken Noodle. I want them to see we have more,” said owner Wanwisa Pureelertwanich ― known as Jay.

    After seven years, Pureelertwanich said it was time to introduce and educate guests to authentic Thai food past the recognizable, which motivated the restaurant's name.

    Pureelertwanich and her mother/chef Tuangthip Yoottanasumpun ― who goes by Lek ― overhauled the restaurant’s menu to feature more authentic Thai street food from North, South, Northeast and Central Thailand.

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    Popular stir-fry dishes were kept, and the eliminated items were replaced with seafood-centric plates. Other Asian-style dishes, like Vietnamese pho and Korean wok-style barbecue beef were added.

    Pureelertwanich said she wants Asheville diners to learn how her family and people in Thailand eat.

    “They can learn when local people in Thailand eat in each part of Thailand because it’s different. The Khao Soi Thai curry, they do that type of curry more on the North side but for the Northeast, they eat a lot of salad, and the taste is spicy and sour,” Pureelertwanich said. “When you eat the food, you can tell what they like in the different parts of Thailand. That’s how they’re going to learn the taste and culture when they try the food.”

    Inside Pad Thai Asheville

    In the kitchen, Yoottanasumpun, who completed a professional Thai chef program at Kasetsart University in Thailand in 2005 and earned an International Cooking Center certificate in Vietnamese foods in 2021, uses many of her original recipes.

    Pureelertwanich said their family has been in the restaurant industry for more than 15 years in the U.S. and more than 20 years in Thailand.

    After working as the head chef in Thai restaurants in Boston, Miami and Asheville, Yoottanasumpun owned and operated Pad Thai restaurant for several years in Brevard.

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    In 2017, her daughter reopened the business under the same name but with a Thai street food focus where she would continue to serve as chef.

    “I want to continue using her recipes and expose other people,” Pureelertwanich said. “They don’t have to go to Thailand, but this tastes exactly like Thailand.”

    Pad Thai Asheville's intimate indoor dining room has several small tables with additional seating on the spacious front, covered patio.

    In the dining room, street art-style murals portray tuk-tuks like those used for transportation in Thailand and the country’s national animal, the elephant. Cultural décor, tapestry, curtains and family photos line the adjacent walls creating a cozy, homey feel.

    Also, a photo of the mother and daughter posing with actor Steve Martin is displayed from when he visited the restaurant several years ago.

    A small retail area is stocked with jewelry, fashion and other items Pureelertwanich said she procured from Thailand.

    Overflow parking is available behind the restaurant.

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    On the menu

    Pureelertwanich added Korean wok-style barbecue beef and bulgogi beef, several types of Vietnamese pho bowls and a noodle salad to the menu of regional Thai dishes.

    The newest addition is a red snapper, a turmeric deep-fried whole fish, inspired by the dishes found off the Southern Thailand shore.

    Khao Soi, a Northern Thailand curry and bestseller, is made with egg noodles, chicken, bean sprouts, pickled mustard greens and red onions and topped with fried onion, cilantro and a lime wedge.

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    The Eastern Thai bamboo shoot salad combo, Holy Hainan Chicken with ginger rice ― or Khao Man Kai ― and Khao Ka Moo are a few of Yoottanasumpun’s favorites.

    Khao Ka Moo a pork leg is stewed for eight hours in cinnamon, garlic, sweet soy sauce, black pepper and cilantro and served with a boiled egg and hot garlic sauce over rice. It’s a popular Bangkok dish with sentimental meaning for the PadThai Asheville family.

    Pureelertwanich said the recipe was passed down from her grandmother to her mother.

    "When she passed away, every time I went to Thailand, I never wanted to get it because I missed her," she said. "I told my mom we should make my grandma’s recipe here so people can taste it.”

    She said Thailand natives visiting the restaurant are excited to see it on the menu.

    “They know it’s hard to make it and to get the taste right,” Pureelertwanich said.

    A multicolored mango sticky rice served with coconut is a dessert option.

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    Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are offered. Pureelertwanich said diners should inform servers of dietary restrictions and that most dishes can be adapted to vegetarian and vegan because the homemade sauce excludes fish and oyster sauce.

    Entrée prices average from $20-$25. Pad Thai Asheville offers a “pretty bird lunch special” menu on weekdays with meals beginning at $13.

    Beer, wine and nonalcoholic beverages including hot tea and coffee are on the menu. Traditional Asian drinks include Thai iced tea and coffee, house-made ginger lemonade, sake and boba tea.

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    Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at tkennell@citizentimes.com or follow her on Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times .

    This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Tastes of Thailand, Asia brimming over on Asheville restaurant's new menu

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