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Eat This

The Newest Toast of the ‘Thai Town’

Story By Ali Resich Photos By Nathalie Walker
May 20 - 26, 2012

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Lumphai Denson, who opened Thai Town Cafe a month ago, is taking her lifetime of experience in the kitchen and putting it toward her very own authentic Thai restaurant. After moving to Hawaii in November of 1990, Denson worked in three other Thai establishments before opening her current Kalihi-based venture with the help of her son, Suriyon O’Neal.

Together, the pair present dishes reminiscent of Denson’s hometown: Phetchabun, a northern province of Thailand. It was there, at the tender age of 9, that Denson began to pick up her basic cooking skills. “I learned from my mom, she was a food vendor in Phetchabun,” says Denson.

Ever since, she’s perfected the recipes that her mother originally taught her, such as Chuchee Pla ($8.75; $22, small whole fish; $25, medium whole fish). Denson’s take on deep-fried fish fillets generously covered in a traditional sweet chili sauce. “I know this recipe from Thailand, but I make my own special sauce — the ingredients are different.” The resulting flavor is rich, with a slight resemblance to sweet-and-sour sauce.

Denson also makes local Thai favorites that she picked up along the way. Her Crab Fried Rice ($8.50) combines crab meat, egg, onion, tomatoes and a house special sauce with stir-fried rice. “From my experience, I see that most people like crab,” says Denson when explaining her inspiration for the dish.

Thai Town Cafe may be a new venue for this mother-son duo, but thier family’s longstanding recipes will quickly make this spot the talk of the town.

Thai Town Cafe

  • Where
    • 1311 North King Street #F-06
    • Honolulu, HI 96817
  • Call
    • (808) 842-4049
  • Hours
    • 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
    • Monday – Friday
    • 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
    • Saturday – Sunday