Celebrating the Culinary Athletes of Yaowarat

When Yaowarat opened its doors in October of 2023, it became an instant Portland original. Nestled in their neon-lit, eclectic Southeast Portland space, Yaowarat serves up the authentic flavors of Bangkok’s Chinatown, and the greater Chinese influence throughout the city.

“Yaowarat is the main road that’s the heart of Chinatown in Bangkok, but our food is not just specific to that one street. There’s a huge Thai-Chinese population in the entire city, and so the concept is bringing our favorite things we had there, back here and staying as true to them as possible.” - Chef Sam Smith 

With dishes and the floor-to-ceiling red decor inspired by a trip Earl Ninsom took with fellow celebrated industry visionaries, Sam Smith (formerly Tusk + Sweedeedee), Eric Nelson (Eem), and Kyle Linden Webster (Expatriate)—the restaurant evokes the vibrant chaos of Yaowarat Road’s massive neon signs, busy night markets, and cramped roadside kitchens where patrons eat elbow-to-elbow. 

Chef Sam Smith brings the real-as-it-gets experience of Bangkok’s Thai-Chinese food stalls to PDX, with a team of dedicated culinary athletes, including a crew of Thai chefs, and others who believe in the collective vision, and the words of restaurateur Earl Ninsom; “Yaowarat is the most fun street on earth.” 

Much like the maze of packed food stalls lining Bangkok’s Chinatown, this authentic adaptation's kitchen is a vision of organized commotion. Steam rises in every direction, woks are filled with simmering umami flavors and the aromatic intensity of Thai chilies, and culinary athletes dodge every hurdle like its second nature to bend, shuffle, and zig-zag on the fly. 

The restaurant has consistently been bustling since its doors opened, with locals and visitors alike lining up to try Thai-Chinese dishes, including the bean curd dumplings, inspired by the many meals shared at Fá Pla Tahn, and perfected in Portland by Chef Kanokwan Jinuntuya. A textural masterpiece, these rich and juicy dumplings wrap a filling of shrimp, pork fat, 3 friends seasoning, thin soy, and oyster sauce in layers of crispy bean curd sheets.

Every dish can be traced back to memories collectively formed by the team. This is where the spirit of Yaowarat’s night stalls and side woks meet Portland’s creative culinary community.

Special shout out to Chef Sam Smith, Chef Kanokwan Jinuntuya, the culinary athletes of Yaowarat, videographer/photographer Carter Hiyama, and photographer Thomas Teal for bringing this story to life.

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