Ketsana’s Thai of Plymouth

The storied past that brings authentic Thai to town.
Katsana's Pad Pak

How many skillful home cooks are told by adulating guests that they should consider opening a restaurant? How many of them turn those words of encouragement into a lifetime vocation? In the case of Ketsana Sueanphin’s family, repeated praise from those who had tasted her home-cooked Thai cuisine eventually resulted in putting shovel to dirt, or pan to fire, as a chef might say. Along with her parents, sister and aunt, Sueanphin opened in the late ’80s Ruam Mit, an acclaimed Thai restaurant with roots on St. Peter Street near the Capitol in St. Paul.

Sueanphin’s aunt and sister were prepared to do the cooking, but none of them knew how to run a restaurant, she says. They learned as they went and built a loyal following of Thai food enthusiasts, who saw Ruam Mit through a move to Seventh Street, where it is still located today (though it has been sold and the family is no longer affiliated with it). Through observation, Sueanphin taught herself enough about the trade to launch a second Ruam Mit in St. Cloud, which she ran for three years until the long commute with her infant son became too much.

In the early ’90s, an ad for a restaurant space in Richfield caught her attention and Sueanphin couldn’t shake her curiosity. She had never formally set her sights on opening her own restaurant, but she went to take a look, liked it, and by 1994, Ketsana’s Thai was open for business. Like Ruam Mit, it gained exposure through word of mouth, and people just couldn’t get enough of that home-cooked pad Thai, which was made from scratch using the original family recipe. Sueanphin prides herself on this type of cooking; not only is her food simple and clean, with no premixed sauces, but since everything is made fresh, ingredients easily can be omitted for special diets or preferences.

After an 11-year run, Ketsana’s Thai closed suddenly—for personal reasons, she says—in 2005. Sueanphin went back to working in her family’s restaurant for a couple of years, thinking that she’d like to reopen again someday. Then she began to notice how limited the Thai options were in the Plymouth area and at the same time was introduced to a group of funders through her Wayzata church, a serendipitous turn of events that helped bring Ketsana’s Thai back to life at County Road 24 and Vicksburg Lane in spring 2010.

Though she had no formal way of reconnecting with her customers, they have trickled in throughout the past 17 months that Ketsana’s has been back in business, driving in from towns as far as Farmington and St. Michael. “Some of them get really excited and say, ‘Next time if you’re going to close and reopen, you need to send customers an email.’” Not only have her customers remained loyal, but she also employs a couple of chefs that have been with her for a decade or more, and her son, now 19, is a server in the restaurant.

Sueanphin says that running restaurants is the hardest thing she could imagine. She assumes responsibility for the enjoyment of each customer, which is no easy burden. “It’s always in the back of your mind,” she says: “‘I hope [the customer] liked our food, and will tell other people and come back.’”

 --Tammy Sproule Kaplan is food editor for Plymouth Magazine. Read her foodie notes regularly in our Restaurants section.


Make it at Home

Customers at Ketsana’s Thai usually come back for one of two dishes: pad Thai or pad pak. The chefs cook from memory in Ketsana’s kitchen, but Sueanphin shared her tried-and-true recipes with us. She finds ingredients like Thai chilies, fish sauce and oyster sauce at Asian grocery stores or at Cub Foods in Plymouth.


Pad Pak

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 clove of garlic

4 oz. raw meat, thinly sliced, or tofu

1 lb. mixed vegetables

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. fish sauce

1 Tbsp. oyster sauce

Dried ground Thai chilies or fresh chilies (to taste)


Heat the wok, and add the vegetable oil. Brown the clove of garlic. Add the meat to the wok, and let it cook through. Add the vegetables once the meat has cooked. If you are using tofu, steam or fry it first, then add it to the wok in the last 30 seconds of cooking. Once vegetables have cooked, add 2 Tbsp. water, a pinch of black pepper, sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce and dried Thai chilies, and stir to blend. If you are using fresh chilies, let them cook a little bit longer. Serve over steamed rice.


Pad Thai
1–2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 clove of garlic

4 oz. raw meat, thinly sliced, or tofu

1 egg

4 oz. rice noodles, soaked in cold water for 4–6 hours

1 Tbsp. fish sauce

1 Tbsp. vinegar

½ tsp. black pepper

1 Tbsp. sugar

½ Tbsp. sweet soy sauce (look for sweet on label)

4–6 oz. bean sprouts

2 stems green onion, cut into one inch slices

Crushed peanuts

Lemon slice

Dried Thai chili peppers (to taste)


Heat up the wok, and add the vegetable oil. Brown the clove of garlic. Add the meat to the wok, and let it cook through. Once the meat has cooked through, crack open the egg into the wok. Add the wet noodles, fish sauce, vinegar and black pepper, and stir until noodles are tender. Add sugar, soy sauce and chilies. At the end, add a handful of bean sprouts and green onion. Serve with crushed peanuts and lemon slice on the side.