Long before she served her Thai dishes in Walla Walla at her namesake restaurant, Phoumy Hormratsamy began her long career in cooking for the Thai embassy in the capital of Laos.

At 14 years old and with no labor laws to speak of, she worked under the master chef.

She actually began cooking two years before that, with her mom. So it may be no surprise that years of experience technically and through the heart of family have made meals a part of her love language.

In the kitchen of Phoumy’s Thai Cuisine, her renowned phad Thai dishes are punctuated with crisp fresh vegetables. Regulars drop in two and three times a week for the favorite cashew chicken, the Thursday and Friday lunch buffet offerings, the celebrated pho, and the range of options for vegetarians to omnivores.

Assisted at the front of the house by one of her two sons, Phoumy has operated her restaurant at 1528 E. Isaacs Ave. since 2010.

At the time she opened here, she had been operating restaurants in the Tri-Cities for 22 years. But her journey was much longer than that.

Born in 1960, she began working in 1974. One year later, communist forces overthrew the monarchy in Laos. In 1978, she left her home country, migrating to a refugee camp in Thailand, her son explained.

Her move to the U.S. brought her first to Tacoma and eventually Pasco, where she’s operated multiple Thai restaurants. In Walla Walla, she found a community where she would eventually like to retire, so she expanded here after selling her last restaurant to a cousin.

The rural surrounding area is much more like the countryside where she was raised, her son said. The quieter pace and appreciation for the land was part of the draw to the community.

She continues to commute daily from the Tri-Cities and employs a staff of up to 10 people.

The space had been the longtime home of The Homestead Restaurant and then was an Asian fusion eatery before Phoumy’s moved in. The floor plan of The Homestead is largely still in place, with a lifted middle dining area flanked on either side by tables and booths. Photos of Thai monarchs and native Thai plants adorn the walls.

In addition to its dine-in and carry out service, Phoumy’s offers catering. Hours of operation are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays; and noon-10 p.m. Saturdays.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, vickihillhouse@wwub.com or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/VickiHillhouse.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.

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