Some like it hot
Diverse menu has traditional dishes and exotic fare to please every palate
Posted: December 29, 2013 at 6 a.m.
Asian cuisine is as diverse as the continent is large. The intricacies of Thai food is nearly as complex.
David Thompson, a renowned chef of Thai cuisine, said that “Thai food ain’t about simplicity. It’s about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. Like a complex musical chord… Some westerners think it’s a jumble of flavors, but to a Thai that’s important, it’s the complexity they delight in,” as reported in The Observer.
A combination of fresh herbs, chilies and seasonings are sauteed with meats and vegetables, offering a dynamic array of Asian-styled dishes.
A Taste of Thai in Fayetteville gives a noble offering of choices with more than 80 menu items.
It is not uncommon for customers to stick to what they know and order the same dish. The large menu can be intimidating to some customers, but the waitstaff is experienced and eager to help.
“I encourage (guests) to ask the server – tell them what you have tried before and what you like,” owner Sandy Sihapanya said.
Don’t be afraid of the spiciness, she added.
“With heat also comes flavor. The more people we serve, the more are ordering spicy,” she said.
“Our spicy goes from 1-5, above that is Thai hot. Now, some customers order double Thai hot. Sometimes, we make it Thai hot and just put the chili sauce on the side so they can try first, and then if they want it, they add more,” Sihapanya explained.
“Sometimes the chili pepper is different because we buy from different (regions) — Thailand, Mexico, Hawaii — we mix it up depending on what is available. Some are hot, some medium hot. That’s why it is better to serve on the side and add your own, because we can’t take it out.”
The lunch menu provides a full page of the most popular entrees in a smaller portion. Each dish is prepared to order and served with a choice of soup or salad, along with a side of white or brown rice, unless the dish already has noodles.
Dinner entrees include grilled salmon or sea bass, fried catfish, rack of lamb, crispy duck and lobster with garlic sauce.
Pineapple curry, mango curry and Kang Pa Nang curry are top selling dishes.
“We make our curry with coconut milk, which makes it creamy and special,” Sihapanya said.
Beef salad (Yum Nur) is order frequently. It is Thai-spiced, grilled beef served on a bed of lettuce with red onions, fresh lime juice, lemon grass, cilantro, green onions and mint leaves.
Sandy Sihapanya owns A Taste of Thai with her brother, Kimo, and his wife Mary Ann.
The family began building their business in Hawaii. They served Thai cuisine for 10 years in Honolulu, then 10 years in Maui before moving to Oregon.
The Sihapanyas came to Arkansas to visit to their oldest brother and saw great potential in the area, especially surrounding the University of Arkansas.
Kimo and Mary Ann Sihapanya moved in 2000 to start A Taste of Thai on Center Street, just east of the downtown Fayetteville Square. Sandy remained in Oregon for a while longer, and joined her brother and sister-in-law in 2011.
She says that the town has been very welcoming and has helped to build steady traffic to the Thai restaurant.
“Thank you to all the local people that support our business,” she said.
A Taste of Thai also provides catering. Customers can order anything off the menu, although some dishes are easier to transport than others.
Popular selections for catering include Pad Thai; Evil Jungle Prince; Panang or yellow curry; Cashew Nut chicken or vegetable; fried rice and spring rolls.
“Just tell us how many people and we can put it together. They can choose meat, seafood or vegetable — whatever they choose — it comes with rice,” Sandy Sihapanya said.
Delivery is available by request for large orders and the food is packaged in to-go containers or buffet pans. Plates, napkins and eating utensils, including chopsticks, are also provided upon request.
A Taste of Thai will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Reservations are accepted for parties of six or more.