INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — At Thai Recipe, customers get a glimpse the Thai culture through the restaurant’s traditional décor, the smiling faces of the staff and the authentic cuisine.
Inside the restaurant are golden tapestries of elephants and large photographs of the Thai king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, hanging on the walls.
“Elephants are the symbol of Thailand, and the photos of the king are a thing of respect,” said restaurant manager Siri Manee Tebuteb.
While taking orders and serving food, the staff and chefs switch from speaking English with customers and Thai with each other.
Guidebooks and tourists often call Thailand the “land of smiles” because of the Thai people’s friendly and gentle demeanor, and the smiles so often spreading across their face. The same friendliness is found at Thai Recipe.
The cooks at Thai Recipe are natives of Bangkok, the country’s capital city. There the women learned the art of Thai cooking, at home and from working in hotels.
“We get a lot of customers who ask if the cooks are Thai,” said Siri. “I think they want it to be more authentic.”
The dishes come from recipes from the cookbook of the restaurant’s previous owner, Laeard Chongolnee, and replicate the authentically sweet and spicy food of the country. Thai Recipe cooks dishes according to customers’ tastes.
“It’s spicy but it’s not over the top,” said Siri. “It’s only on request that we make it very spicy.”
Cherry Soontornsuk, a cook at Thai Recipe, learned to cook from her aunt, Nuthjare Jumnianpat, also an employee at the restaurant. Nuthjare spent 10 years as a head cook in Bangkok before coming to Incline, and Cherry joined her aunt in the kitchen four years ago.
Although the kitchen has been a comfortable and familiar place for more than 20 years, the cold and mountain of Nevada were not. Cherry grew up in central Thailand, where the weather was hot and humid year-round.
It took some adjusting, she said, but now she is enjoying Incline Village.
“The weather is very good here, I like it a lot,” she said.
Statues of Buddha are placed throughout the restaurant. Next to each statue, customers can see full glasses of water and food offerings such as bananas, a bowl of rice or a small dessert.
The offerings are made daily, Siri said, and are a custom of the Thai culture. Preparing the offerings and saying a prayer are a part of opening of the restaurant each day.
“We want to make sure customers are comfortable,” Siri said. “We space the tables far enough apart and play Thai music. We want to make them feel like they’re in a Thai restaurant.”
Thai Recipe has been in the same location on Tahoe Boulevard for 10 years, serving pad Thai, tom ka gai and spring rolls.
The restaurant was purchased by Philip Parent and his wife, Saiyut, in 2011. Siri manages the restaurant for her aunt and also commutes to Reno for school. The young woman studies Community Health Science at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Siri said it is normal to miss the true tastes of Thailand, as many ingredients are difficult to find locally. Outside of the restaurant, Thai expats cultivate the sense of home in the company of each other. Employees from Thai Recipe and the Hyatt make an effort to spend time with each other on their days off.
“We stay together and connect with each other,” Siri said. “We get together and share culture.”
Thai Recipe offers a daily lunch special on weekdays and take-out everyday of the week. Pad Thai is the most commonly ordered dish in the restaurant, but Siri suggests those familiar with Thai food to try new thing: gangsom, which is a hot and sour soup with some spice and the curry pastes are made from scratch.
Thai Recipe is open seven days a week, lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We want to make sure customers are comfortable … We want to make them feel like they’re in a Thai restaurant.”
Siri Manee Tebuteb