Nui Toyting grew up selling her mom’s cooking at street markets in Thailand.
Now she hopes to bring her mom’s authentic Thai recipes to the Longview community at her new restaurant, Thai in Town, at 1052 14th Ave.
“Thai food is my passion. I love to eat, and I love to cook,” Toyting said Friday. “I love to see people when they eat my food because they are happy.”
Toyting moved to Alaska on her own in 2006 when she was 28 to join her future husband, Tim Kirton, whom she met online. During the nine years they lived in Wasilla, Toyting worked as a massage therapist.
She learned to adapt to the cold and snow, she said, but the cuisine was a harder transition.
“The one thing I missed a lot is food. Thai people grow up with rice as their comfort food. You eat it for three meals a day. But here they eat bread. They don’t eat rice. It’s hard for me. I can’t get myself to eat pizza or a hamburger everyday,” she said. “The one thing I love in American food is barbecue pork ribs.”
To remember home, Toyting would cook traditional Thai food: pumpkin curry, pad thai, fried rice, sweet sticky rice in banana leaves.
Toyting and Kirton moved to Woodland in 2015 to be near his sister. A year later, they bought a house in Kelso.
She worked at Applied Plant Science in Woodland for about three years before deciding to branch out into a new culinary career.
The restaurant space in a strip mall on 14th Avenue took a lot of painting, decorating and cleaning before Thai in Town had its grand opening on March 15, she said. Business was a little slow at first, but it’s starting to pick up as word gets around.
Toyting says her restaurant is different than the many other Thai restaurants around because its as authentic as possible. The pad thai, for instance, is not as sweet as some more Americanized places. And she said she makes everything from scratch using fresh ingredients, including the sauces.
While pad thai is the most popular meal, Thai in Town also offers deep fried shrimp stir fry with pineapple and peppers, chicken cashew stir fry with vegetables, fried boiled eggs with sweet and sour sauce, sweet pork belly, pumpkin curry, chicken coconut soup and multiple noodle dishes. The entrees range in price from $8.50 to $10.
Thai in Town also offers a “family meal” of two entrees, one noodle dish, two spring rolls and two fried wontons for $15.
Eventually, Toyting said she’d like to offer pre-wrapped meals for quick lunchtime orders. And she wants to turn part of the space into a party room where people can host gatherings or meetings. She already offers catering for events.
She is looking to hire one part-time employee, but her husband and friends have been helping her until she fills the position.
One of her proudest moments recently, she said, was when an American couple who had lived in Thailand came into her restaurant and asked if her food was like what you would find at a street vendor in Bangkok. They ordered their meal in fluent Thai. Afterwards, the man told Toyting that “Your food is like I was sitting in Thailand.”