The savory scent of fresh-cooked Thai appetizer delights may be the magnet that draws customers to the Siam Thai booth at Marco island Farmers Market, but their unique taste is what keeps regulars coming back for more.
Actually, the market’s new booth vendor, Thong Phanthanivong is no stranger to many of his customers because they also frequently dine at his charming Siam Thai & Sushi restaurant in Naples that opened in 2001 on 9th Street just south of Central Avenue.
“Friends and customers who live on Isles of Capri and Marco Island and often eat lunch or dinner at my restaurant are the ones who told me about the Farmers Market, saying it was one of the best markets in Florida and they urged me to check it out and ask about renting a booth this season,” explained Phanthanivong.
Sousada, Phanthanivong’s wife and partner, is the executive chef at the restaurant but he also cooks in the kitchen and prepares the sashimi, sushi and rolls listed in restaurant’s lunch and dinner menu selections of Thai and Asian specialties. Phanthanivong moved to the U.S. in 1995, and was visiting relatives in Miami and she was working in a Thai restaurant when the couple met and subsequently married.
Actually, Phanthanivong also makes the appetizers sold at the booth, deep frying them in a portable commercial fryer. Incidentally, he related that it’s almost mandatory for Thais to learn to cook by the time they reach the age of 10. Siam Thai & Sushi executive chef Sousada Phanthanivong often creates new appetizers that she will debut at the booth to gauge customer approval before adding them to the restaurant menu. Most recently, the booth featured a curry puff, filled with sweet yellow bean paste and ground chicken encased in a puffy crunch shell, that was positively worth purchasing. In addition, chef Sousada created a crispy, cookie-sized tasty minced tilapia seasoned pancake that will be available at the booth.
Customers can choose from five appetizers that are also featured on the restaurant’s regular menu: Siam Crab, including seasoned minced crab and cheese; Thai Roll, including ground chicken and fresh minced vegetables; Shrimp in Blanket, including shrimp stuffed with ground chicken and Pork Dumpling. All are wrapped in spring or egg roll skins and deep-fried. There’s also a Fresh Basil Roll, including boiled shrimp, crab meat, shredded lettuce, carrots, cucumber and Thai basil leaves wrapped in a soft rice paper skin, a customer favorite that usually sells out early along with a savory steamed pork dumpling, including ground pork, mushrooms and carrots.