Cuisine To Thai FOr
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Providing dishes that emulate authentic flavors is the essence of Malee Thai Restaurant, owned by Ratchaneekorn “Jenny” Ayano. Ayano, who grew up in the restaurant industry, remembers living in Thailand with her parents and being immersed in Thai cuisine through the family business.
“My mom owned a Thai restaurant, and the taste (in our dishes at Malee Thai) is similar to the food you’d find in Thailand,” Ayano says.
Currently, Ayano and her daughter Supawadee — known as “Supa” — run the restaurant. Malee Thai first opened in Chinatown nearly 20 years ago, as a venture started by Ayano’s sister.
“(The restaurant) formerly belonged to my sister,” Ayano says. “We were partners, but I took over when she retired.”
One year ago, Malee Thai closed the doors at its Chinatown location and moved to its current spot on Keaaumoku Street, located next to Subway. Ayano says the new location gave her the opportunity to keep the restaurant open later for dinner because business picked up.
“In Chinatown, we were only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” she says. “Because we have better business here, we can open longer.”
Malee Thai offers a wide variety of dishes, ranging from seafood entrees and noodles to curries, so there’s something for everyone. You have beloved Thai favorites, like Pad Thai ($9.50-$11.50) and Pad Se-Ew ($9.50-$11.50), to more unique creations like Steamed Mussels with Thai herbs, served with a garlic chili sauce ($11.50), and a number of chef specials.
“Our Curry Crab Stir-Fried ($13.50) is one of our most popular dishes,” Ayano says. “Our Pineapple Curry ($11.50 with shrimp or seafood) — made with red curry paste, coconut milk, fresh pineapples, tomatoes and basil — is also extremely popular.”
A great selection of refreshing salads also is available at Malee Thai, such as the Papaya Salad ($7.50) and Minced Meat Salad ($9.50). The most popular one, according to Ayano, is Crispy Rice Salad ($9.50), which comprises pickled pork with lime and spices, along with lettuce and mints.
While Ayano can easily point out which menu items are customer favorites, she likes to change things up at Malee Thai by offering weekly specials on a regular basis.
“I always have something special (for customers),” she confirms. “For example, this weekend, we did Baby Back Ribs ($15) with a garlic chili sauce. We also had Fried Fish with Sweet Chili Sauce (market price).”
This month, as Malee Thai celebrates its one-year anniversary — Sept. 19, to be exact — at its new location, Ayano looks forward to all that lies ahead for her business.
“Our cuisine is real Thai food, like you would find in Thailand,” she says. “We’re most crowded on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but we also offer validated parking and take-out.”
Malee Thai Restaurant
661 Keeaumoku st., Honolulu
Daily, 10:30 A.M.-10 P.M.
Validated parking available