Xaymoungkhoun, an international student from Laos, first ventured into the restaurant industry in Arlington. She took over a local Thai restaurant there before opening her own restaurant, Thai Monkey in Roanoke.
“When we come from another country, we will miss the food,” she said. “And I tried to go to eat [at] many places—the Thai food—but it’s not really authentic.”
The search for authentic food began back home; Xaymoungkhoun said she wanted to ensure all her recipes were authentic down to the smallest detail. To accomplish this, she reached out to her grandmother for help.
“[My family] loves to cook, and my grandmom, she really detailed all the food. But when I was a kid, I never learned from her,” she said.
Many of the spices and herbs used in the restaurant are imported directly from Thailand, Xaymoungkhoun said. Spices are homemade, like the curry spice, which Xaymoungkhoun’s family dries and packs for her. The menu recipes highlight all regions of the country as well as parts of Laos.
Popular menu items include tom yum, a hot and sour stock with lemongrass, galangal—a root closely related to ginger and turmeric—fresh mushroom, scallion, tomato, fresh basil and lime juice; khao soi kai, a yellow curry soup with chicken, egg noddles and onions; and the crispy duck basil, a boneless duck cooked with yellow onion, carrot, jalapeño and crispy basil.
“I studied overseas since I was 15,” Xaymoungkhoun said. “I [used to cook] easy things, [and] when I eat it, it only [made] me full—but it did not make me want to eat [it] again. So that’s why when I opened the restaurant, I [want] to make the customer remember the taste and want to come back to eat.”
Thai Monkey - 210 S. US 377, Roanoke. 682-502-4843 www.thaimonkey95.com Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-9 p.m; Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-10 p.m; Sat. noon-10 p.m.; Sun. noon-9 p.m.