By Jen Merrill
Saksit Siraphan, the 31-year-old owner of Pad Thai in Mechanicsburg, sits at a table in his almost 10-month-old restaurant with his hands folded in his lap and a smile spread from ear to ear. His love for the Thai cuisine – as well as Thai culture – is obvious as he talks about his dedication to serving the most authentic Thai food this area has to offer.
The space itself is simple, but Siraphan has injected it with ornate details such as a wall of diamond-shaped mirrors. One wall boasts a written history of the dish that shares its name with this new eatery.
It’s no wonder that pad Thai is known as one of Thailand’s national dishes. Plenty of places across the world serve the popular meal. But none of the other places have Anong Phongamphan in the kitchen.
“It has always been my dream to own my own restaurant, and then I met Anong and she has been such an inspiration,” says the young business owner.
Phongamphan is Pad Thai’s 74-year-old chef, a strong woman with over 30 years of experience preparing and cooking food in a restaurant setting. Though she and Siraphan collaborated on some of Pad Thai’s recipes, most of them are her own.
“She’s cooked for years and knows what will sell,” says Siraphan. “She knows what the customer wants and can do it really fast. With the pad Thai, she’s made it for 20 to 30 years, so you can taste the difference.”
Siraphan is dedicated to offering his patrons the freshest, most original and most authentic Thai food possible with little adaptation. While he understands that taste buds vary all around the world, he’s careful not to over-Americanize his cuisine.
“We tried to adapt just a little bit,” says Siraphan with a smile.
Take the Phuket Pad Thai, for example. It’s a selection of seafood with bean thread noodles, fresh bean sprouts, egg and scallion all stir-fried in their secret, homemade sauce, which Phongamphan has perfected over multiple decades of cooking.
Or there’s the Chiang Mai Fried Rice.
“It’s half of a fresh pineapple sautéed with fried rice. We add some curry powder and some cashews. There’s some beef and chicken and calamari and shrimp. The calamari comes in a calamari steak, so it’s a big one,” explains Siraphan. “The pineapple is cut in half, and the pineapple meat gets cut out.”
These days, Phongamphan does the prep work while her daughter Kunthara does the cooking. They work as a team to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind dishes that transport guests from a strip mall in Mechanicsburg, Pa. to a tiny hole-in-the-wall hidden off the traditional tourist paths in Thailand.
Pad Thai, located at 6416 Carlisle Pike, Suite #1000 in Mechanicsburg, is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Reservations are accepted and carry-out is available. For more information, visit padthaipa.com or facebook.com/padthaipa, or call (717) 796-1246.