SOUTH WILLIAMSBURG — Two weeks ago, Plant Love House opened its fourth restaurant, Noods n’ Chill in South Williamsburg, an homage to their Chinese and Thai roots. Their first location in Elmhurst, Queens, was born out of a weekly dinner in Benjaporn’s Chua mom’s backyard back in 2013.
Manadsanan Sutipayakul, Chua’s mother, was a cook in Thai restaurants, like Playground, when they first emigrated from Thailand to the US back in 2007. They settled in Thai Town in Elmhurst, Queens, not speaking a lick of English.
“A lot of my Thai friends would come to the house every week and eat,” said Chua. “They felt bad and started chipping in, and it became a thing.”
The neighbors found out, the friends of neighbors heard about it too, and soon enough every weekend the house was bustling with food, cheer, and community. While the family didn’t plan to open a restaurant, they saw a tiny Tibetan spot putting up a “for sale” sign in their neighborhood, and they decided to open a place of their own, known as Plant Love House.
Soon after a beaming New York Times Review in 2015, they opened a second location in Prospect Heights called Look, Thai for “daughters,” where the menu embraces cooking mom’s food. With the business growing, the family decided to close the Queens location in 2016 as their rent was more expensive than the Brooklyn location. Customers asked if they would deliver to the other side of Prospect Park, and Mondayoff was born in 2017 on the edge of Kensington and Ditmas Park, focusing on Thai street food.
They first looked at what was to become their South Williamsburg spot years ago, when it used to be a French restaurant, but they couldn’t afford it and took the spot on Coney Island Avenue instead. Serendipitously, the spot was once again put up this year at a much more affordable price, “it was meant to be,” Benjaporn smiled.
The restaurant is small, and seats 10-12 people, with a focus on take-out and delivery. The décor was inspired by the traditional house their mother grew up in – cozy, with charming touches of antique knick-knacks.
“It’s all about [having] an experience,” Benjaporn said about the new restaurant. “That’s why I don’t care about the space being big or small, this is like somebody’s house and you eat something you haven’t’ eaten before, and it’s so good you want to come back.”
The menu has Plant Love House’s original noodles and curries they are known for, what’s different is the weekend specials: unlimited rice porridge with savory sides and Thai style street breakfast, like steamed brioche with coconut egg custard and sweet roti.
“You wake up in the morning in Thailand and go straight to the street,” Benjaporn excitedly described the daily ritual. “This is the food we eat for breakfast.”
When Benjaporn’s grandparents emigrated to find a better life, they struggled financially. Her mother grew up on rice porridge, cooked by mixing rice with hot water and boiling until it thickens like a congee.
“The fact that they had to feed everyone, they added water to everything and boiled it, so it’s enough rice to feed everyone,” said Benjaporn. “Back in the day it was [a survival tactic], and it was served with preserved vegetables, radish, cabbage, because it’s in a can and its shelf life is a lot longer and it’s cheaper, and they’d cook it with eggs.”
These family recipes born out of struggle, now shine on the menu at Noods n’ Chill. Their home Chinese cooking was also influenced by Thai pantry, and now has chili, lime, peanuts, and fish sauce in many dishes.
“Forty to 50% of the population in Thailand right now is half-Thai and half-Chinese,” Benjaporn explained. “So, in my generation, [the food] is a mixture of these two foods together, so you’ll find mackerel with lime sauce and chili, or Chinese sausage with Thai dressing, and it’s perfect with the congee.”
While Benjaporn curates ideas for the menus, her mom and younger sister execute the dishes and meticulously shop for their ingredients, going to the markets themselves rather than doing delivery.
“We have uniqueness, we do what we really believe,” Benjaporn said. “And it’s a time when Americans like authentic food, now they don’t like ‘Americanized Thai’ food.”
On weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. they serve unlimited rice porridge they grew up on with various sides like cabbage omelets and stew sweet pork, alongside Thai tea with condensed milk, and brunch with sweet breads and Ovaltine. During the weekdays from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. you can order from their classic lunch and dinner menu that boasts of pad Thai, pad see ew, khao soi, and other favorites. Find them at 170 South 3rd Street. Mondays closed.