Owner of Thai Zap wants restaurant to 'feel like home' - East Idaho News
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Owner of Thai Zap wants restaurant to ‘feel like home’

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Photo: Shrimp pad thai at Thai Zap. Video: A sampling of the food at Thai Zap. | Logan Ramsey, EastIdahoNews.com

POCATELLO — As cars drive past down Pocatello’s busiest road, restaurant-goers enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of Thai Zap.

The restaurant, which started as a food truck by owner Vahn Phranasith and his wife, Mam Phranasith, serves authentic Thai cuisine. While Vahn immigrated from the neighboring country of Laos, Mam immigrated to the United States from Thailand.

“I’m all about honesty. That’s how we serve our stuff,” Vahn said.

The goal of Thai Zap is to make customers feel comfortable when they come into the restaurant.

“I want them to feel at home,” Vahn said. “When people come in here, we welcome them and greet them, but we welcome them as a friend, not just as a customer.”

When the couple started Thai Zap, they didn’t expect it to grow to the point where they would have a permanent location.

Vahn was busy working at Basic American Foods in Blackfoot, but Mam loved to cook, so they decided to start Thai Zap and see where it would take them.

“My expectation starting out was making like a couple hundred bucks a day,” Vahn said.

But then, Thai Zap started to catch on, and more customers came. Eventually, people told the couple that they should expand to have a permanent restaurant.

Initially, Vahn had some hesitation about starting a restaurant.

“I do not like restaurant risk,” Vahn said. “It’s a lot of work. Some people who run a restaurant will be there like 12 to 16 hours.”

Despite this risk, Vahn and Mam both knew they could do it. They opened Thai Zap’s permanent location in 2019.

Thai Zap Shrimp Pad Thai
The shrimp pad thai at Thai Zap. | Logan Ramsey, EastIdahoNews.com

One of their main dishes they offer, just like any good Thai restaurant is their pad thai.

“Pad thai is a main dish. A lot of people who run restaurants told me that if you go to any Thai restaurant, try their pad thai first,” Vahn said. If the pad thai isn’t good, Vahn said that you can expect the other dishes not to be good either.

Vahn said that when someone order their pad thai, they can request to have the dish made however they want, whether that’s not having peanuts in it or choosing how spicy the dish will be.

The sauce at Thai Zap contains a variety of ingredients, like soy sauce, brown sugar and palm sugar. It takes a half-hour of constant stirring to get the sauce just right.

Chicken Fried Rice Thai Zap
The house fried rice at Thai Zap | Logan Ramsey, EastIdahoNews.com

One meal at Thai Zap that most people will enjoy regardless of their taste is the house fried rice.

“Everybody eats fried rice,” Vahn said.

To make this, they start by making the rice and whatever protein the customer wants in it. For chicken, they boil it and let the steam out.

Next they stir fry the rice and protein and vegetables with their house-made sauce.

Chef Curry Thai Zap
The chef curry at Thai Zap | Logan Ramsey, EastIdahoNews.com

Thai Zap’s chef curry started out as a special they would serve from time-to-time.

“But now everybody requested it be on the menu, so we’re going to keep it,” Vahn said.

Sometimes people shy away from curry because they’ve heard about it being spicy, but Vahn said that people are in control of how spicy their dish will taste when they order.

“We don’t put the spice in unless you ask,” Vahn said. “A lot of people think that Thai food is very spicy and hot. No, we can make it as hot as you want.”

Vahn makes an effort to treat not only his restaurant-goers well, but his employees too. He has an employee still working for him that’s been there ever since they opened in the trailer.

The way that Vahn sees it, when people come and dine at Thai Zap, they’re supporting him and Mam.

“I don’t see people who walk in here as a customer, but as our friend supporting us,” Vahn said.

You can view Thai Zap’s menu online or go to its location at 465 Yellowstone Avenue.

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