Royyim is the Thai word for smile —which is what the owner of Royyim Thai Cuisine set out to bring her customers when she opened the Mesa restaurant two years ago.
“When people are thinking about Thailand, they’re thinking about the land of smiles, so that’s why I went with this name,” said Wisoda Tanawisan, whose restaurant is at Greenfield and Baseline roads.
She came to the United States five years ago and studied language at Arizona State University before getting a master’s degree in computer science from Cal State.
Upon returning to Arizona, Tanawisan opened Royyim.
The food industry is not foreign to her: her parents have owned a restaurant for 20 years in a small town in South Thailand, near Malaysia.
“I was thinking about opening a restaurant all along because my family has a restaurant and they wanted me to have my own business,” Tanawisan said.
But starting a restaurant here had its challenges.
“I don’t have much experience in opening a restaurant in the U.S. Mostly I know how to open and run a business in Thailand,” she said.
“So, it’s a little bit tough on me to do the marketing, how to get people to know us. The way to do marketing in Thailand and here is completely different because the people behave different.”
Her parents have not only helped Tanawisan with marketing but in sharing recipes that she has adapted with ingredients found in the U.S. — yet another challenge at times.
“For us, we try to use the produce of Thailand as much as we can to get the authentic taste but sometimes we cannot find a substitute with the local product,” explained Tanawisan.
“Mostly substitutions are going to be with vegetables because some vegetables we can’t find here,” she added.
As a result, Tanawisan has to improvise to keep the taste as authentic as possible.
“For example, in Thailand, we don’t have much broccoli but here it’s very popular,” said Tanawisan. “Most Americans like it. In Thailand, broccoli is hard to find, I think because it’s hard to grow in Thailand and it’s not widely used.”
Even the local Chinese grocery markets don’t carry all of the vegetables used in Thailand.
Or spices like Thai basil.
“The basil we use in the U.S. is sweet basil,” Tanawisan said. “In Thailand, it’s holy basil. It’s hard to find here and hard to grow because it only grows in the summer and it doesn’t last long.”
She said the sweet basil slightly alters the taste of the food.
But Tanawisan still tries to keep her family’s recipes as authentic as possible.
Her signature dishes include Pad Thai (rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, green onion, ground peanuts), popular in the U.S., Ho Mok Talay (mixed seafood, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, basil and coconut milk) and Moo Tod (deep fried pork, garlic and mixed greens).
The traditional way to make Ho Mok Talay takes two hours but Tanawisan has found another way to make the dish so it has the same taste as back home.
Most food at Royyim is made the order. Ingredients are measured out so dishes taste the same each time. Diners can request the spice level to be adjusted to their taste. About 70 percent of the menu items can be made gluten-free or vegan.
“The secret is fresh ingredients,” said Tanawisan.
Tanawisan also features dishes made with a broad assortment of curry dishes — yellow, red, green, panang, massaman and pineapple, to be specific.
Customers can order online for carryout and even customize their order.
Tanawisan hopes to open another restaurant one day with even more authentic Thai food like her family cooks.
“I do have some dishes I want to sell but I’m thinking the American people won’t like it,” she said. “So, I’m trying different things out at this restaurant as a special and if it’s popular, I’ll put it on the menu.”