Growing up, Orasinee Ratanaarporn devoted a lot of her studies to the field of medical technology. After moving from Bangkok, Thailand, to Los Angeles in 1982 for college, she found her way to downtown Houston, where she noticed a distinct lack of the food that reminded her of home.

“I never liked to be in the lab all day long,” said Ratanaarporn, founder of ZapVor by Thai Spice. “But I am a good cook, and everywhere I ate, it didn’t compete with what I’ve been cooking myself—so why not take a chance?”

Originally founded in 1995 as Thai Spice, ZapVor is based on the combination of “zap”—Thai slang for “delicious”—and “flavor.” While her first location was in Bellaire, the Spring location, which opened in 2022, was a push to bring more traditional and authentic Thai cuisine to the region.

“We have northern food, eastern food, southern food, and each region is slightly different. They have their own herbs, spices and ingredients,” Ratanaarporn said.

Papaya salad, sweet and sour pork sausage, and pickled crab are all dishes that may seem new to people who have never eaten traditional Thai food, but Ratanaarporn stated those dishes help bring a taste of home to an increasingly diverse community.

“It’s a literal melting pot, and we have something from back home that nobody wants to [make] here, but we do it,” she said.

Traditional flavors

Head chef Tanaporn Ksambang works to incorporate traditional Thai foods and techniques into menu items that will be familiar to those who know the cuisine, but they will also interest those who have never tried the blends of spices and herbs that define the dishes, Ksambang said.

“I am a picky eater, and I’ve been to many places where I tried [Thai food], and I did not like it, but I know how to take the flavors and pick them out,” Ksambang said.

Lemongrass, pickled fish, raw turmeric, ginger, mint and coriander are all key ingredients in many dishes of Thailand. In dishes, such as the braised pork shoulder, the juices contain sweet and tangy flavors, while the papaya salad has a fresh and spicy twist. Individuals can choose their level of flavor for spicy, sweet and tangy.

The variety extends to the drinks as well. Guests can try beverages, such as lychee soda, which is made with a native fruit to Thailand and China, or one of the many cold-brewed fruit and flower teas, such as mango, hibiscus or butterfly-pea flower.

Ratanaarporn aims to provide the comfort of traditional dishes for those who seek them as well as offer a new taste to those who only know dishes such as pad thai and curry.

“I think we try to do better every single day,” Ratanaarporn said. “We take a bet on that people will like it, and once they’ve been introduced they do like it.”ZapVor by Thai Spice

ZapVor by Thai Spice