Daeng takes a leap of faith in new restaurant
Daeng Neuang-keo is one busy woman.
The owner of Tuk Tuk Thai Kitchen is setting up shop at the old Duck Creek restaurant site in Pauatahanui.
The official opening was Sunday, with a ton of landscaping, varnishing, painting and an entire kitchen fitout completed last week.
‘‘It’s so busy, but in a good way,’’ Neuang-keo said.
‘‘This year has been a crazy one for me and everyone associated with the business, and we’re not done yet.’’
Neuang-keo, who lives in Whitby, said two years ago she had a vision of bringing authentic Thai food to the community.
She began selling from her home, then moved to a food truck.
Attending festivals, night markets and other events had proved lucrative - but setting up in Brown’s Bay, Whitby, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings was where Neuang-keo garnered a huge local following.
‘‘I sometimes have people waiting an hour for my food, sitting in their cars. It’s incredible and I’ve always been very really happy with the community support for what I’ve been doing.’’
Neuang-keo also made many new friends by giving free food to residents and emergency staff during the recent flooding.
Leasing the former Duck Creek site had taken a real leap of faith, she said, but she had been overwhelmed with help from Porirua residents in getting the building ready and school children planted trees around the property.
The business would run as a cafe from 8am till 2pm, selling cakes and other cafe staples, and then from 5pm till 10pm as the full Tuk Tuk Thai Kitchen experience, including takeaways.
‘‘I know it’s a risk, going from the truck to setting up a restaurant, but I have to give it a go and work towards something bigger.
‘‘With a truck, you can pick and choose where you want to go, but now I have a base. It’s scary and exciting, but I want this to become a destination.’’
Up to 10 new staff will be hired, and Neuang-keo, who came to New Zealand as a refugee from Laos in 1981 when she was 9, had interviewed Thai chefs herself.
Neuang-keo hoped to mix things up regularly by having different Asian food nights, along with traditional street and country Thai food.
Daeng Neuang-keo, the owner of Tuk Tuk Thai Kitchen, who opened her restaurant on Sunday.