The desire to bring Northern Thai cuisine and hospitality to Canada has birthed several beloved and recognized restaurants in Toronto. From humble beginnings to now being one of the most influential chefs in Toronto, Chef Nuit Regular has done more than just bring a taste of home to the city.
PAI Northern Thai Kitchen, Kiin, and Sukhothai, are some of the most known restaurants in Toronto – a must-try if you’re visiting or hoping to experience authentic Northern Thai flavours.
But this culinary empire didn’t begin in the city, it all started with a humble Curry Shack in the small town of Pai. Chef Nuit was a nurse in Thailand and left her career so she could share her passion for cooking and to share family recipes.
Several years later, alongside her husband Jeff Regular, they built this empire of recognized culinary destinations, creating the most beloved and recognized dishes across Canada.
The bestselling and most loved dish
“Pad Thai is probably the most well-known and popular Thai dish, and when I opened up my first restaurant here in Toronto, I wanted to bring my own version of Pad Thai to diners,” said Chef Nuit in an interview with Curiocity.
“Pad Thai in Thailand is kind of like pizza in Italy—every region and every family has their own version, with slightly different variations. The Pad Thai that I serve at PAI is the Pad Thai recipe that I grew up cooking and eating, so it’s authentic to my own personal experience of growing up in northern Thailand.”
Nuit shared that during the early days of Sukhothai, when business still wasn’t the best, she received a negative call from a customer stating she didn’t know how to cook pad Thai. The reasoning? It didn’t have ketchup.
“I was so shocked! Ketchup in pad Thai?! It is not something I had ever heard or seen,” shared Nuit. “But I learned that some people use ketchup in North America in their Pad Thai to get that sweet and sour flavour, and for the colouring. I grew up making Pad Thai the traditional way, with a tamarind-palm sugar sauce.”
Considering that business wasn’t great at the time, she debated on offering ketchup with the dish, hoping it would bring in more customers. That moment was quickly washed away with confidence in serving her version of Pad Thai.
“I wanted to show Toronto diners how we cook and eat in Thailand. So I stuck with my Pad Thai. Other customers loved it though and started spreading the word about my Pad Thai, and it is now my #1 selling dish at my restaurants.”
If you have yet to enjoy a dining experience at Kiin, do yourself a favour and make a reservation. Chef Nuit’s most recent restaurant differs from her other locations as it’s more elevated. But there is one dish that she truly enjoys – Chor Muang.
Also known as the Thai Flower Dumpling, is a very traditional Royal Thai dish that is served at Kiin.
“It is a flower-shaped savory dumpling that is dyed a purple-blue using butterfly pea flowers,” Nuit Said.
“The skin of the dumpling is made with rice flour and each dumpling is hand-shaped. Every chef has their own style of forming the flower—I have my own style of shaping the petals on my dumplings.”
Chor Muang is filled with peanuts, coconut, pickled radish, and onion, giving it a sweet and savoury combination. It is then steamed and topped with fried garlic and red chilli.
“It is a labour of love, but we absolutely love sharing this dish with our guests, who cannot get enough of it!”
And because of that labour love, Chef Nuit has not only gained the recognition of her adopted city but also of the prestigious Michelin Guide.
Both PAI and Kiin have been added to its recommended restaurants list.
Good thing she didn’t add ketchup.