Bringing Thailand to Athens through food

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By Samantha Taylor, Messenger Staff Journalist



For May Rath, cooking is one of the few things in Athens that can take her back to her native Thailand.

Rath moved here a few years ago after getting married, having previously worked for a university in Thailand where she was born and raised.

Now, she runs a little Thai food business out of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (known as “ACEnet”) and is waiting for a food truck designed specifically to fit the needs of her business to be finished.

Cooking Thai food for others didn’t start out as a business but as a way to feed other “mama friends” in the community. As she started to cook more and more, the idea for a business came to mind.

Rath moved her business, dubbed Dr. May’s Thai Kitchen, into ACEnet in June, where she cooks the food and can store and preserve ingredients to use when they are out of season. Customers can call or order food online and pick up or have their food delivered at specific times during the week.

Right now, pickup and delivery are usually only available during the late afternoon/early evening hours on weekdays. Once Rath gets her food truck, she plans to serve lunch next to Ohio University’s College Green along with the other food trucks.

Rath said she expects the food truck to be done in two months time. She hopes to one day open a storefront location.

“Pad thai never tastes better when it’s served hot and doesn’t have to be in a container,” she said.

Rath makes various traditional Thai dishes, including pad thai with homemade pad thai sauce, pad see ew, chicken satay, chicken green curry, tom yum goong and massaman curry. The menu on her Facebook page lists the history behind and the ingredients of each dish.

Buying ingredients appropriate for traditional, authentic Thai dishes can be difficult during certain parts of the year.

“I’m trying not to compromise,” she said.

Rath tries to purchase her ingredients from local farmers, but in doing so seasonal vegetables can be tricky to obtain. Eggplant, which goes in curry, is only available between September and November. This is where the preserving methods available to her at ACEnet come in handy.

Like Rath, who learned how to cook from watching her parents and grandparents while growing up, her young children often watch her cook in the kitchen.

“Sometimes they sit and watch and ask, ‘What is that?’” Rath said.

Rath said she sometimes has her 2-year-old daughter in one arm while stirring food in a pot on the stove with her other hand so her daughter can see what Rath is making.

Though she enjoys being with her children and doesn’t always feel comfortable leaving them, she enjoys the act of cooking Thai food and how it almost takes her back home.

“I’m still Thai by cooking,” she said.