Restaurant serves up taste of Thailand

Restaurant serves up taste of Thailand

by Mandy Bartok
Stripes Okinawa Archives

The tiny Thai restaurant tucked among unassuming buildings just outside the gates of Camp Courtney is easy to overlook. With just a handful of parking spaces, it’s not the sort of place that attracts accidental diners along busy Route 75. But aromas emanating from it reveal some of the most authentic Thai food Okinawa has to offer.

Khrua Thai – which means “Thai Kitchen” – is the labor of love of U.S. Marine spouses Manee “Neng” Rudolph and Jureerat “Julie” Rioux. Both originally from Bangkok, the two found themselves accompanying their husbands on tours of duty in Okinawa. It’s a move that jump started a long-held culinary desire.

“It was always my dream to open a restaurant; to work for myself and be my own boss,” Rudolph explains.

Having first tried her hand catering for festivals at Courtney and White Beach, Rudolph seized the opportunity to open her own place when the former building tenants offered her the spot. In January 2008, her vision became a reality when Khrua Thai opened its doors to serve noodles, fried rice and various tangy curries.

“I was never officially taught how to cook,” Rudolph admits while whipping up an order of pad Thai in the restaurant’s kitchen. “I learned from watching and cooking with my mother.”

The hands-on lessons have served her well, judging from the number of repeat customers that grab seats at the restaurant’s half-dozen tables during mealtimes.

“Most of our clients are military families,” says Rudolph, “But we’re beginning to attract more Japanese diners, too.” Publicity is mostly by word-of mouth, so the owners rely heavily on recommendations.

Khrua Thai’s menu offers a range of favorites – pad Thai and spring rolls rank high on the list of requested plates. There are also a selection of lesser known dishes such as Tom Yum (hot and sour soup flavored with lemongrass) and a basil stir fry.

Both appetizers and main dishes are available. While no desserts are listed, diners looking for a taste of something sweet can take comfort in a tall glass of Thai ice tea. If spice is an issue, just tell the server your preference – everything from a mild to mouth-on-fire spiciness can be provided.

“I come in every day, though what I do depends on how I feel” says Rudolph. Since Khrua Thai is open for lunch and dinner six days a week, she finds most of her time revolves around the restaurant. Whether in the kitchen, behind the counter or out taking orders for customers, she is a driving force behind Khrua Thai’s success.

The next time you crave a dish of green curry or want to cool off with a refreshing glass of tea, stop by Khrua Thai and let Rudolph and Rioux treat you to a taste of Thailand’s best cuisine.

To get to Khrua Thai restaurant, take the expressway to exit 5 (Okinawa Kita) and follow 329 north to 75 east. Khrua Thai is on Route 75 just across from the entrance to Camp Courtney.

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