Mark and Picha Pinkaow are anti-broccoli when it comes to cooking their curry.
“In real Thai curry,” Mark says, “There is no such ingredient as broccoli.”
In fact, ask them to add or remove ingredients in any of their Thai dishes and your preferences will most likely be turned down. No, they mean not to upset the customer; they are, however, simply cooking Thai food the honest way and serving it right.
Thai Curry Simple is a husband and wife cooperative, a restaurant whose humble character is perfectly illustrated by the handful of dishes personally selected and written out on the makeshift blackboards by Picha herself.
Home is a significant theme in the of the Pinkaow’s business. Following a less-is-more agenda, Picha and Mark combines hand picked fresh local products with the home-made curry paste, packed and shipped from Picha’s family in Thailand, to create the core palette that makes up the authenticity of each dish.
Both grew up in Thailand where they were raised on the foundation of home cooked meals and constant access to the variety of street food. However, their love for Thai food does not lie just within the final product, it is instead, inclusive of the intricacies of cooking and the coming-together-of people.
Despite many successful years within the New York restaurant industry, Picha eventually grew dissatisfied with making dishes that were often too overdone with additives or stripped of their original form.
“I decided to open up a smaller restaurant, only cooking dishes I wanted to cook that I remember eating while growing up. I serve them to my customers as if they are over for a family meal.” Picha said.
Within a short amount of time, her nook of a restaurant had customers lining outside the sidewalk and even earning praises from the New York Times.
Now in Seattle, they follow the same business model: small, genuine, affordable and family oriented.
Mark and Picha can often be found swiftly weaving in and out of the tables and kitchen, serving dishes and checking in with customers. According to them, establishing a relationship with each of their patrons is an enjoyable aspect of working in this industry.
Darany, Picha’s elder aunt, can also sometimes be found lending a hand in the restaurant. Unlike Mark and Picha, she’s been a Seattle resident for over thirty years. Her maternal-like presence added further warmth to the quaint shop as she sat with her tea, sharing recollections of a different Chinatown in the bustling 80’s. A relatively more subdued atmosphere of the International District now does not quite bother her, although she expressed her preference for a more active community—Mark and Picha agree.
Compared to New York’s Chinatown, Seattle’s is a calmer contrast. However, what seems to be missing for these two places is an embraced sense of community from members within and outside of the district. And though Mark and Picha do their part to bring strangers together over a home-cooked plate of Thai food, they would like to see this friendly gathering extend outside their business doors.
And, if you happen to come in on a day Darany is present, ask her to share with you a nostalgic memory of a younger Chinatown.
Thai Curry Simple
Address: 406 5th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98104
Having been a community journalist in the area for a few years, I have begun to appreciate every unique story in our town. From the heartwarming story of a local baker to the glorious past of an army general, these are the stories that motivate me to get up in morning and dig deeper into the picture.
“Behind the Scenes” is a biweekly column that features bite size stories you may overlook from your daily routine. --- Jocelyn Chui