Noi Monaikul majored in science in college and had plans to go into nursing, but her love of cooking sent her in another direction. (The fourth of four stories in honor of Labor Day)
Editor’s note: In honor of Labor Day, the H-F Chronicle talked with four local people of whose passion for their work enriches the community and make it a great place to live. This story is the fourth of four published in the Sept. 1 print edition of the Chronicle.
Noi Monaikul majored in science in college and had plans to go into nursing, but her love of cooking sent her in another direction.
She told her parents that her biggest desire was to open a Thai restaurant. They helped her get started in 1984 when she opened Siam Thai Chinese Restaurant in Matteson. In 2005, she moved to a larger location at 3311 Volllmer Road in Flossmoor Commons.
Monakuil and her husband Nate, natives of Bangkok, have a mission to introduce individuals to authentic Thai cuisine. “I wanted to expose people in the south side to Thai food,” she said.
Thai food has been popular in Chicago and some suburbs for quite some time, she said, but the South Suburbs have been slower to adapt. Yet, people in the area have become accustomed to different varieties of cuisine. “When I first opened, people here also didn’t know Japanese food, and now you have sushi all over,” she said.
Although Thai food is similar to Chinese, Monaikul said it is lighter in oil and absent of extra MSG. She refers to it as “healthy, fresh food” with each dish prepared to order, making it possible to tailor dishes to guests who are gluten free, vegetarian or vegan.
Running a restaurant is hard work, and Monaikul said that one of the biggest challenges of the job is working long hours with no vacations. However, great feedback from customers makes it worthwhile.
“We love to make people happy with our food,” Monaikul said. “We have a lot of repeat customers and customers who have followed us from our old location. It’s a tough business, but we survive because of our longtime customers.”
The family-run restaurant operates with the help of Monaikul’s husband, aunt, a cousin, friends and occasionally her adult children, Jennie and Nat, who have professional careers.
“Customers come in who remember seeing them helping when they were younger,” Monaikul said.