Matters of Taste:  Red Curry Vegan Kitchen

Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, September 2021

Story and photos by Gail G. Collins

In Thai culture, meals are a social occasion, and dishes are enjoyed family style — the more, the merrier. There aren’t courses, but choices from many categories served together. These include a variety of colorful stir-fries and fragrant curries, plus soup and pineapple or mango for dessert. A mix of sweet, salty, sour and spicy elements creates a satisfying supper.

Each October in Thailand, a vegetarian festival takes place over 10 days in tribute to Taoist belief barring meat consumption or harming animals in order to refine minds and bodies. The event fosters rich traditions and spiritual practices, but also challenges celebrants, clad in white for purity, to free the soul of wrong and cleanse the body as acts of devotion.

Memory of this joyful celebration pushed Chada Tirakul to fulfill her dream and open Red Curry Vegan Kitchen, her second Thai restaurant in Flagstaff.

“This was a beautiful time in Phuket, and personally, I eat vegan two to three times a week, but in September and October, I am a solid vegan,” she said.

The earnest business graduate grew up cooking with her father for family gatherings and worked as a student in a Thai restaurant, knowing down deep that one day she would open a restaurant of her own.

Tirakul ran herself ragged in the early years to make a success of Dara Thai before she trained up the next generation to take over the reins. After ventures in Taos and Santa Fe, her committed partner, Sasiya Stoneburger, joined her in launching Red Curry in early 2014, the first vegan eatery in Flagstaff. The aim of bringing authentic Thai food as vibrant, vegan fare “… whisk(s) you away to the streets and markets of Phuket,” just as Tirakul hoped.

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