From delicious spring rolls to spicy homemade curry sauces, Ban Thai Restaurant in White Bear has been dishing out authentic Thai cuisine for 12 years.
Since 2005, Pornouma Marid has owned and operated Ban Thai (“Thai House”). For about 60 years before that, Marid’s family owned similar restaurants in Thailand.
Growing up, Marid learned how to cook family recipes straight from the source—Mom and Grandma. And it wasn’t just about learning the family business; it was about loving the art of cooking.
“I helped my parents every day when I was young,” Marid says. “I didn’t have a career in cooking when I was in Thailand. But I have the skills and finally decided to open my own restaurant.”
Marid lived in Thailand until she was 31, relocating to White Bear with her husband 20 years ago. Although she doesn’t have formal culinary training, she pairs her mastery of family recipes with her business degree to run her restaurant.
Each day, she works 12 to 14 hours, coming in early to prepare all her own curry sauces and other Thai staples. Thai food can traditionally be very spicy, but Marid says what makes Ban Thai stand out is that the spice level can be adjusted depending on the customer’s palate. “I love cooking with spice, but that doesn’t mean every food in the restaurant needs to be spicy,” she says. “But most of the customers like coming to Ban Thai because they can get real spice.”
To create this authentic Thai spice and flavor, Marid sources some of the most important ingredients from a wholesaler in St. Paul that imports directly from Thailand.
Some of her most popular dishes are those made from family recipes—spring rolls, egg rolls, pad Thai, soups and more. “The customers say the egg rolls are the best in the world,” Marid says. “They’re my grandma’s famous recipe.”
Marid is the sixth of eight children, but is the only member of her family living in the U.S. Her husband is from White Bear Lake, and having lived in the Twin Cities for 20 years, she says she now likes it even more than living in Thailand.
“I really like the small town and the community, and the nice people,” she says. “I lived in Bangkok for 15 years and it’s very different, but I like White Bear better. It’s a quiet, independent town.”
Her customers voted Ban Thai the best curry dish in the White Bear area, and other dishes like pad Thai, spicy noodles and soups continue to be top sellers. Facebook reviews discuss the authenticity and freshness of the food, raving about the wonderful flavor and spice. Many commented that the small, family-owned eatery is better than any restaurant they’ve been able to find in New York City or anywhere else in the Twin Cities.
“It’s good food,” Marid says. “It’s fresh and it’s homemade.”
Thai Ingredients 411
Mung bean noodles
Made from the starch of the mung bean, which is the most common bean in Thai cuisine.
Red curry paste
Aromatic herbs, fragrant spices and chili peppers are blended to make this multi-purpose paste, a staple in Thai cooking.
Thai chili peppers
One of the most common is prig kee nu, which is approximately 45 times hotter than the jalapeño pepper.
Popular Dishes on the Menu
Rayong’s famous egg rolls: An heirloom recipe, these egg rolls are stuffed with fresh cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, eggs, onions and mung bean thread noodles. They’re lightly deep-fried and filled with your choice of pork or chicken.
Pornouma’s special chicken wings: “If I could only choose one appetizer, this would be it,” says Marid. Served on a platter of six, these chicken wings are marinated with her secret sauce overnight and then deep-fried to lock in the flavor.
Tom yum gai: The Thai version of chicken soup, this is an all-time favorite for Marid, her family and customers. Tender chicken, Thai straw mushrooms, onions and lemongrass spiced with Thai peppers, served with a side of Thai jasmine rice.
Laab nua: A deliciously spicy plate—coarsely ground beef marinated in a spicy combination of Thai peppers, lime juice, onion, fresh mint, green onion, cilantro and roasted rice powder. The tasty creation is served on a bed of lettuce and cucumbers, and comes with an order of sticky rice.
Gang panang: A thicker variety of red Panang curry with ground peanuts, fresh sweet peppers and Thai basil; you can add your choice of protein.
Gang pineapple curry: Fresh, juicy pineapple and sweet bell peppers are simmered in a tasty Masman curry coconut sauce and served with Thai jasmine rice. One of the most talked-about items on Ban Thai’s Facebook page.
Pad Thai: The most famous Thai dish of all contains stir-fried rice noodles, fresh bean sprouts, spring onions and egg topped with roasted peanuts and fresh lime, and drizzled with Ban Thai’s homemade pad Thai sauce.