03 Oct MEET A LOCAL: SAM of TUK TUK THAI
If you’re a frequent visitor to 17th ave like I am, it is most likely that you have noticed a new member of the restaurant community of 17th Ave. There has been a variety of restaurants creating huge competition among the businesses. Filled with pizza and wine, there isn’t as much authentic Asian foods on that avenue. Tuk Tuk Thai is new to the street and is turning 3 months old. They may be newly opened but they have an extensive history in the restaurant industry- specifically in Thai cuisine.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting the man behind Tuk Tuk Thai, Sam. He brings forth over 35 years of experience in the restaurant industry. With connections like Jayme MacFayden and Kelly Black, his realm of connections allow him to connect with the 17th ave community instantly. Tuk Tuk Thai didn’t happen over a few months of planning. There is so much thought behind on who, where, what and when of Tuk Tuk Thai. Along with strong Thai roots, Sam’s family are all great cooks and even family back in Thailand own a grocery store which is a huge advantage for Sam as he is able to know first hand which brands are the best of all. He brings in traditional recipes and tweaks it to accommodate the wide realm of tastes.
Customers who have been to Thailand recognize the Tuk Tuks in the restaurant immediately, allowing them to have a sense of familiarity. All the decor was curated thoughtfully and placed accordingly. Did I mention all the pieces in the restaurant are from Thailand? Yes that includes the chairs, tables, and artwork!
Tuk Tuk Thai’s space is welcoming while offering concept similar to fast food where takeouts are more common that eat-ins. They have a few seats and an area to sit while waiting for the food. They are exploring the possibility of adding more seating area in the near future as well. Fast food chains are known for their bright primary colours but Sam wanted to make sure the colour wasn’t too standoff that is a get-and-go feel but more welcoming and easy to recognize.
This piece of art below is one-of-a-kind. Created by an artist in Chiang Mai, this is so beautifully made showing the key symbols of Thailand. If you look carefully at the picture, the cloth is indeed 4D.
Another wall displays beautiful photographs of Thailand- their breathtaking landscape, culture, people, and entertainment. I’d say the left and right walls demonstrate the history and the modernization.
Sam allowed me to sample the variety of dishes that Tuk Tuk Thai has to offer. One of the best things about their food is that it’s all made from scratch! Fast and flavourful- two words that describe Tuk Tuk Thai’s food very well.
This is their Thai iced tea. Love, love, love this. It’s so refreshing and satisfying. Q and I take any opportunity we can to have Thai iced tea so I can’t wait to bring him here to have some!
Funnily enough, coconut water was originally not planned to be part of the drinks that they offer but because of the current hype and demand for it, it got added in. This is pure coconut water. No added sugars and no hardened coconut meat.
I didn’t have enough time to try their pink lemonade but it uses a specific kind of flower that emits a pinkish purple dye and Sam was able to create a drink that was hip using traditional ingredients.
As part of the appetizers, this is the Ginger Prawn and Tukky Stick. All the meat is marianated with herbs to ensure that they are packed with flavour. The pastry that they use to roll these is perfect. It is fried to perfection and definitely filled. Their house made pineapple plum sauce is so good. It doesn’t overpower the food and you can taste both the sweet and sour. Most often, restaurants use packaged sauces that is too heavy on additives but this is an amazing balance. Their fried foods don’t contain much oil because they use oils that contain 0% cholesterol and trans fat. On top of that, they empty out and refill their oil frequently!
I also got to try their off the menu special Porky Stick. It’s like eating street food! Marinated to perfection, filled with herbs and full of flavour.
Their Tom Yum soup is so good I had to bring it home for my mom. Although I enjoyed it quite a lot, Sam admits that it still isn’t 100% to how he wants it so you can bet that it’s going to be even more delicious soon! It is made from scratch using chicken broth (ps. All their food is cooked using chicken broth and it makes a difference to the flavour!).
I got to try two of their Pad Thais: vegetarian and prawns. Pad Thais are very hard to perfect. Lots of technique is required to cook the noodles perfectly and mixed in a specific way to ensure that the flavour is balanced. Sam explained to me the amount of work that Thai food requires and it took a long time to ensure consisetency. Being only open for 3 months, Sam admits that things weren’t perfect and it just recently been getting to how he wants it to be. He’s definitely a perfectionist! I loved both. I haven’t had decent Pad Thai in awhile since most always result in need of liquids to wash down the amount of MSG restaurants put in; however, the ingredients the cooks use at Tuk Tuk Thai are all raw which boasts lots of natural flavours.
I love trying different curries even though my tolerance for spicy foods isn’t high. Masman-style curry is amazing. Tuk Tuk Thai slow cooks the Masman curry with potatoes and onions. It smells amazing and tastes delicious! If you can handle too much spiciness, this is the curry to go for!
This is their Kra Prao Beef aka The Flames. It has a very distinct taste. Beef is cooked perfectly- not too soft and not too hard. Most people cook it with green peppers but it interferes with the flavour so Sam substituted it with long green beans. The beans absorb the flavour and compliments it without having an opposing flavour.
Moo Nam-Tok aka Moo Moo Lemon definitely challenges the level of spiciness I can handle! There is so much preparation into these pork shoulders! Marianated, grilled, sliced, then cooked a bit more. What a process! Kudos to the chefs. Accompanying the meat with the rice is perfect.
Every dish Tuk Tuk Thai offers go through lots of preparation. It’s clean, welcoming, refreshing, and offers delicious food. Sam adapts to change and takes into consideration of the feedback he receives. Because people may be having take out to eat at a later time, Tuk Tuk Thai gives some more sauce to ensure it doesn’t dry up and loses all the flavour. All the meat in their dishes is marianated to ensure the flavour is present, the ingredients are fresh, and everything made from scratch in the early mornings. Branding is so important to the business’s success so Sam gave thought into a simple and recognizable logo. Not to mention their unique packaging that makes them stand out among the restaurants. It is cute, memorable, and perfect sized for the food.
With strong roots and culture, Tuk Tuk Thai offers the most authentic food and I am sure they will be able to claim their Pad Thais as the best in Calgary. They have grown tremendously over the past year and will only get better. Sam and his staff treat every customer with a warm welcome. The one thing that makes everything worthwhile to Sam and Tuk Tuk Thai is that customers are happy and have enjoyed the food.
Visit Tuk Tuk Thai @ 636 17th Ave SW, Calgary AB T2S0B4.