For the greater global glory

Nara Thai Cuisine continues its international expansion with a Yangon branch

Nara Thai Cuisine Yangon, the first fine-dining Thai restaurant in Myanmar's fast-growing commercial city.

Unquestionably, Thai cuisine is treasured worldwide for its rich and exotic taste profile -- a balance of sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy flavours.

The global glory of Thai food is obvious. Four Thai dishes, namely massaman curry, phad Thai, som tam and tom yum goong, was recently named by CNN among the top 10 world's best food of 2017. Meanwhile, more and more big-time Western chefs are turning to Siamese recipes for new culinary inspiration.

Today, it is very common to find a Thai restaurant thriving in a big metropolis many thousands of kilometres away from the Kingdom.

Some of Nara's all-time internationally famous dishes.

But, for me, it is as much intriguing to learn about a promising first step of a home-grown culinary venture as it enters into a once-closed territory of a neighbouring land.

Launched a few weeks ago in Yangon, Myanmar, was Nara Thai Cuisine restaurant.

The stand-alone, 150-seat establishment with three private rooms is the first fine-dining Thai restaurant in Myanmar's dynamic commercial city, aiming to cater to well-off families, urban foodies and international expats alike.

The grand opening event welcomed some 200 guests -- from local business tycoons to socialites, and was graced by Jukr Boon-Long, Thailand's ambassador to Myanmar.

"I am happy to finally witness a real fine-dining Thai restaurant opening here in Yangon. Myanmar is a high-potential market with a 57 million population who love anything Thai.

"There are in fact many Thai eateries in Yangon but most of them lack authenticity and need to improve in consistency. I deeply trust that the original like Nara can do so," the ambassador noted.

The Bangkok-based Nara Thai Cuisine opened its first restaurant 13 years ago at Erawan Bangkok plaza. The kitchen follows a simple culinary concept of authentic Thai comfort food.

Today the brand enjoys a total of 17 outlets -- eight in Bangkok and nine outside Thailand.

"Our first overseas venture was in 2013 in Singapore. After that we entered Sri Lanka, Vietnam Hong Kong, India and Myanmar. In the very near future we will open in Taiwan and the Philippines," said Nara's founder Yuki Srikarnchana.

All of Nara's overseas branches are franchised and operated by ardent customers of the Bangkok restaurant.

Some of Nara's all-time internationally famous dishes.

"Every franchisee is our true customer who loves our food," Yuki said.

"I think this is the right way to do it. You have to personally experience and love what you would invest your money in."

According to her, such success in overseas expansion was never in her mind when she started the business in 2004.

"Nara started with a modest idea of turning my true passion into a small business that would keep me active when I retire.

"Apparently our business has grown quite speedy yet very organically. We didn't have any marketing plan. We never chase after investors. We are just fortunate to have the opportunities and we carefully consider every opportunity that comes to us."

As one of a very few franchisers from Thailand to enter the international market, Yuki admitted that it's not easy.

"You have to provide ultimate support to your clients. We have put an amount of time and effort in the preciseness of recipes alone. Everything has to be detailed and accurate. You cannot just sell your product and walk away.

"Nara has certain business guidelines which apply to many things from the kitchen to the dining room. For example, head chefs must be Thai. Sauce and some certain ingredients have to come from Thailand. The visual mood and tone of the dining area has to be right. We also have an audit team to pay a visit to these franchised outlets and regularly report back to us."

Because Thai food is Thailand's great heritage, Yuki said that it's very important for her to ensure the high standard and graceful image of Thai culture.

"It's never mainly about making money but also promoting Thai cuisine on the global stage, so we would get to know our refined culture, and that our dining evolution is world class."

His Excellency Jukr Boon-Long, the ambassador of Thailand to Myanmar, and Yuki Srikarnchana, Nara Thai Cuisine's founder.

Nara Thai Cuisine Yangon, the first fine-dining Thai restaurant in Myanmar's fast-growing commercial city.

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