We don’t have a huge Asian populations in Buffalo, and so most of our Asian restaurants cater to non-Asian customers.
The result is a lot of Americanized menus with pan-Asian foods pulled from different countries and regions. That’s led to a lot of fusion confusion.
Case in point: Kae Baramee, who owns a food truck specializing in classic dishes from Thailand, fields a lot of calls requesting food that isn’t Thai.
“Some people call me and say, ‘Uh, do you have people making sushi?’” she says. “I say no; sushi is from Japan.”
You might think of Thai food as the sweeter or fresher cousin to American Chinese food. But there is no singular Thai cuisine: Thai food is extremely regional. Baramee grew up in the central province of Ang Thong. Until she moved to the capital city of Bangkok as a young adult, she never tasted some of her now-favorite Thai dishes.
“When I came to Bangkok, I saw they had food from all over Thailand,” she explains. “All the cooking styles were mixed together. I tried food from Eastern and Western Thailand. I learned about papaya salad and gai yang, which I really liked.
“I used to work in a mall in Bangkok. On my break, I would go for a walk to get both papaya salad and gai yang.”
Baramee moved south to Bangkok to pursue her culinary dreams and she eventually found her way to the United States on a work visa. After coming to Buffalo and growing frustrated with working in local restaurants, her husband Mark Muscato inspired her to strike out on her own with Tiny Thai. The food truck features a number of Thai dishes that Baramee selected “because I like to eat them!”
Baramee recently provided a few samples of her food and we were happy to try something other than the old local Thai standbys. The almost-too-pretty-to-eat Chor Muang dumplings were a sweet and salty treat, filled with a crunchy peanut sauce. The Massaman curry was a hearty stew of pork, carrots and potatoes in a fragrant coconut milk broth. Made with a floral black tea, milk and sugar, the Thai iced tea was a balance of earthy and sweet.
This spring, Tiny Thai will return to its Saturday and Sunday residency at the Sublot 37 space, located at 450 Rhode Island Street on Buffalo’s West Side. A grand opening event on May 1 will feature Thai boxing, yoga, music and more.
The food from Tiny Thai offers a more vibrant (some might say more authentic) alternative to the typical Thai food around Western New York. And yet, Baramee gets a lot of requests for the same old, same old: pad Thai.
She says she’ll get to it, eventually.
“Everyone always asks me why I don’t make pad Thai,” she says. “I wanna make pad Thai, but not yet. For now, I want to focus on this menu. I want people to know Thai barbecue chicken, Gai yang, Thai dumplings and things like that.”
Takeout Kitchen is located at 27 Chandler St #212B, Food Truck Locations will vary.
450 Rhode Island St. Hours at time of posting (subject to change): Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
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