ANGIE ERICKSON/In partnership with with 99 Thai Fusion
Editor's note: This story was written in partnership with 99 Thai Fusion.
Thai food is not ordinary at 99 Thai Fusion in Layton. Owner and head chef Thanakorn Tanapanit selects the freshest ingredients and prepares the dishes in authentic Thai ways so the customer feels as if they are dining in Thailand.
Tanapanit, who goes by Manop, has worked in restaurants in New Zealand, Australia and Thailand and takes pride in making the experience at 99 Thai Fusion one that’s simple and upscale. He also owns and operates Ruan Thai, located on 12th Street in Ogden.
Authentic Thai menu items with some added fusion include fresh spring rolls, pho chicken, Thai barbecued chicken or pork, mango curry, green papaya salad, chicken cashew nut love and sweet and sour chicken stir-fry, just to name a few.
The Standard-Examiner sat down with Manop to talk about his experience in the restaurant business and 99 Thai Fusion. The interview has been edited for length and category.
S-E: What inspired you to become a chef?
Manop: When I was young I liked to cook with my mom and my brother at our home in Thailand. My mother taught me the basics and how important it is that my food is always fresh and prepared with authentic ingredients.
S-E: Where did you get your training to be a chef?
Manop: I worked for a Thai restaurant in New Zealand. I worked with a chef who taught me how to do curry and stir-fry. When the chef was sick, I got to step in. I got a lot of experience. I remember one day I said I will open a restaurant of my own. I also worked in restaurants in Australia and Thailand. When I came to Utah 12 years ago, I worked for Job Corps. I was head chef for four years.
S-E: When did you open 99 Thai Fusion?
Manop: We opened in November 2016. I also own Ruan Thai that is on 12th Street in Ogden.
S-E: How did you come up with the name 99 Thai Fusion?
Manop: In Thai culture, number nine is the lucky number, which we believe will bring good fortune.
Fusion means something different, an added flair. The food tastes good already but also looks pretty to the eye.
S-E: What is your signature dish?
Manop: The people love the Pad Thai. I put some some fusion in it like a love nest. I put all of the meat together, shrimp, beef, chicken, tofu, pork and some soft noodles and crispy.
S-E: How are you giving back to the community?
Manop: I donate to the Thai Temple for their activities. Every Sunday I take a small tray to the temple. I also help out with the Thai New Year in April.
S-E: What makes your restaurant unique?
Manop: I like to add fusion to the dishes. Pumpkin or mango to the curry or cut egg rolls up so they look pretty. I take notes of what people are ordering all of the time so I know what the customer wants. I want the food to taste authentic. If the customer has eaten in Thailand they come here and miss Thailand because it tastes so similar. Some people like spicy food, some do not. Customers can tell us how spicy they want their food to be on a scale from one to five.
S-E: Who is your role model?
Manop: My wife, Neng. She works here and I have taught her how to cook. She came from a wealthy family in Thailand and has learned to do everything in the restaurant.