Lamphay Phetpharachanh started out in a family-run Ruam Mit Thai. Eleven years ago, she opened the restaurant in my neighborhood, on Pierce and Selby in St. Paul, and is soon to open the fifth Taste of Thailand restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. She believes in “make it good, make it healthy.” When Lamphay began, she cooked 365 days a year, but now she trains cooks, holding them to her “fresh” standards. Even details like hand-squeezing limes are important to her standards of good food. She uses sugar only in desserts, not in main dishes, has unique, universally popular spring rolls. She has now worked twenty years with no vacation.
Lamphay comes from Laos, where she had three years of college, and then worked for the government in the area of science and technology. Moving here, she switched to doing something she loves: cooking. So I asked, “Why isn’t it Taste of Laos?” She said that people didn’t know Lao cooking, and it is much the same as Thai cooking. On the menu, the items with sausage or with sticky rice are actually Lao recipes.
Though she sells more food for take-out than for dining in, her greatest problems have to do with people not picking up take- out orders. Indeed, she may have stop having take-out for that reason.
Lamphay’s joy is providing good food. She treats customers and workers like family. Lamphay speaks and writes in multiple languages, as do many of her employees. In just one kitchen, she could have people speaking Thai, Burmese, Lao and English. She is proud of the three employees who started young with her and have now finished college. She says that English can be the toughest language.
Lamphay is very proud that Paul Wellstone came to visit, but does not recall any other local government representatives eating at the restaurant. I hope that you have the opportunity to dine at one of her Taste of Thailand restaurants soon and get to know her!