Family is everything to Chai and Moo Ruangmetheeksun. The owners of Plano’s Ruang Thai restaurant left banking careers in Bangkok, Thailand in 2000, and moved to Texas, all for family. They came to help Chai’s brother by working in his restaurant Tukta Thai in Dallas. After working there for 11 years, Chai’s love of cooking and Moo’s outgoing personality all but assured they were ready to open a place of their own.
Chai grew up in the Nakornsawan province of Thailand, called the “Heavenly City.” He and his brother grew up learning a love of cooking from their mother and attended a school where cooking was taught. Hailing from the Heavenly City, is it any wonder his food tastes absolutely heavenly too? Moo is from the Samutprakarn province, close to Bangkok. She met Chai while working at the Bangkok Bank and fell in love instantly. They balance each other perfectly, just as the jobs they do in their restaurant are in complete harmony.
Chai is the culinary genius. He explains that while all the dishes served at Ruang Thai are inspired from traditional Thai cuisine, he has learned that his “American customers have a different palette” and prefer slight changes to his recipes. Whereas traditional Thai recipes are slightly sweet, American tastes run toward slightly salty dishes.
This is not to say that Chai doesn’t serve strictly Thai recipes. Although it’s not on the menu, if you come in and ask for Thai food as the Thai people eat it, he can whip up something you’d find in a restaurant in Bangkok or Phuket or Chiang Mai. He loves the recipe tweaking process, often taste testing a recipe months at a time before he finally serves it. He imports all of his spices and food supplies directly from Thailand to get the best possible flavor and likeness to traditional Thai food.
Chai does change the menu several times a year, sometimes completely changing a menu item or reworking the flavor to something he likes better. He is the only chef at Ruang Thai, so perfection for him is absolute. His life’s work is to make sure customers thoroughly enjoy their meal.
While Chai runs the kitchen and oversees the food, Moo is the beautiful, always smiling face of Ruang Thai. She welcomes all customers into the restaurant as if they are family. Moo, her sister Sri, niece Pannee and nephew Mongkol all see to the tables and take great pride in their service and in Chai’s food. In essence, Moo is the Thai momma you never had! She is a wealth of knowledge on the menu and variations of the dishes, and she can help any person find something their palette will thank them for.
The decision on where to locate Ruang Thai took some time. Chai admits he deliberated many months, wanting to find just the right location. He looked high and low for the right neighborhood and finally struck gold in Plano. He explains, “Plano is very good to small business owners. We are able to be near to the homes and shopping and people remember us.” The restaurant opened in 2011 and recently moved spaces within the same shopping center at Custer and 15th.
Anyone who tastes Ruang Thai isn’t likely to forget it. The restaurant rates its spiciness of dishes on the average scale of 1-5. Most Thai people eat about a level 3-4 in everyday food. Chai means serious business with his spices — he ain’t kiddin’ around. A level 5 is like breathing fire, but would you believe Chai and Moo have regular customers that order a special level 15 spicy? Chai laughs when regaling this tale, “I tell them to be careful!” He knows his food can be spicy and laughs jokingly “we hand the box gently to the patron as if it will blow up at any second from the heat!”
Aside from the amazing food, dining at Ruang Thai is a zen experience. The restaurant is decorated in beautiful Thai Buddhist décor, all imported from Thailand. The dining room is always calm, quiet and spotlessly clean. Alcohol isn’t served, but you are welcome to bring in your own adult beverages.
Anytime your own family is stressing you out, the kitchen is messy, and you need to feed your brood, go dine out with your Thai family and let them help your tummy find its happy place.Ruang Thai Website >