Five years after his arrival in South Africa and disappointed with the authenticity of Thai cuisine offered, the Thai national Chai Lekcharoensuk was inspired to introduce the upmarket take on Thai dining to South Africa.
Lekcharoensuk opened the first Wang Thai Royal Thai Cuisine restaurant on Cape Town’s Foreshore in 1993. The restaurant’s combination of sophisticated elegance, royal Thai chefs and delicate spicy food was well received by the local Capetonians, which led to him developing the Wang Thai Restaurant Group throughout the Cape Peninsula.
Having established an enviable reputation in the fine dining sector of the restaurant market, Lekcharoensuk saw an opportunity to open a second, more mainstream Thai restaurant chain which would combine the authenticity and flavour of Wang Thai with the convenience and simplicity of a European noodle bar.
Ten years later with his vision still in mind, he opened the first Simply Asia Thai Food & Noodle Bar – a fresh, tasty and affordable alternative for diners looking to broaden their horizons with more exotic and authentic cuisine.
“When I opened Wang Thai in Green Point I served many customers who could easily afford to eat out once a week at a restaurant,” said Lekcharoensuk.
“I also wanted to reach consumers who were on a tighter budget, but still wanted to experience Thai cuisine in a sit-down restaurant environment, and to introduce them to fresh and healthy alternatives to the regular food choices they are faced with on a day-to-day basis.”
“Our menu features simple dishes that people eat every day in Thailand. The soups and noodle dishes are typical Thai street food to eat on the go, or you can sit down and order a few different dishes for the table to share.”
“Our recipes are true to their Thai roots, subtly flavoured with fresh herbs and spices, but sometimes we tweak them to suit local tastes by tempering spices to make a dish milder, or adding chili to give it more bite.”
Mr. Chai grew up in rural Thailand, East of Bangkok, and as the eldest of 6 children his love and appreciation for food soon flourished as he would help his mom and aunts to cook all of the family meals. Upon finishing school he was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Germany where he formally studied Hotel and Catering.
The Simply Asia Restaurant Group, along with Wang Thai, follows a strict policy – in order to maintain true authenticity to the Thai culture – of only employing Thai Chefs, from Thailand, to work in all of their kitchens, whether company or franchise owned.
The people of Thailand are known to be very hard-working, but they are also known for their warm smiles and the belief that hard work should be balanced with fun.
“Since opening our first store in October 2003 at Heritage Square, Cape Town, our philosophy has remained the same: to combine fresh and nutritious food in a sleek yet simple setting with helpful, friendly service whilst offering good value for money.”
Certain meals have become firm favourites with the South African public who have become quite particular about the standard to which their Thai dishes are served.
Topping the most popular lists are:
- Ped Raad Nam Makham Prik Phao (or simply 267) is a roasted chilli tamarind duck dish where the duck meat is lightly dusted with tempoura, then fried, sliced and topped with a sweet roasted chilli tamarind sauce with broccoli, celery, mushrooms and a portion of fragrant Jasmine rice.
- Ba-Mee Prik Phao (or 514) is Simply Asia’s signature dish. A delicious dish available in chicken or beef with a range of flavourful ingredients including cashew nuts, fried garlic, peppers, onions and spring onions tossed with yellow noodles in a delectable roasted chilli paste and stir-fry sauce.
- Linguine Phad Tom Yum (622) is a refreshing mix of pawns stir-fried with mushrooms, lemongrass, spring onions, fresh garlic and tomato in a roasted chilli and Tom Yum paste with stir-fry sauce and a dash of lemon juice served with linguine noodles.