Sep 12, 2006

Thai'99 keeps the hungry satisfied

by Jennifer Maxfield
Yaam tee ma-noot mee kwaam hiw yom mai yom rap fang siang reu kam sang dai tang sin.
(Where there is the barking of the belly, no other commands will be heard).
—Thai Proverb
The ancient Thai proverb that labels hunger as a “barking belly” makes me smile. When I step through the restaurant doors, my stomach does growl. The air is rich with the aroma of an extraordinary food culture, and  I can’t wait to become acquainted. This marks my first experience with Thai food. Just off Memorial Avenue on Wadsworth Street is Thai ’99, a delightful restaurant that serves authentic Thai cuisine. 

Patty Kachornvanich, a native of northern Thailand, greets me. Kachornvanich speaks with a soft accent, is slim and cheerful and wears a pleasant smile. She and her husband Jeff own Thai ’99 in Lynchburg as well as two other restaurants in Charlottesville, Va., of the same name. Encouraged by the demand from their customers, the couple moved to Lynchburg three years ago to start a Thai restaurant.

I began dinner with a tall glass of cha yen or “Thai tea.” The tea is a delicious, unique blend of milk, tea and spice. According to, Cha yen is a common blend, served in restaurants and tea shopsteashops all across Thailand. 

For an appetizer, I order fresh vegetable spring rolls. The spring rolls are a blend of fresh carrot and lettuce, rolled in rice paper. The dish comes with a mouth-watering side of pineapple and crushed peanut sauce. 

The Kachornvanichs keep the Thai food as authentic as possible. However, Patty Kachornvanich admits they have “toned down the spice,” to make the food more palatable for unaccustomed American diners. “The main staple of Thai food is spice,” says Kachornvanich, “but we can make things not so spicy.” Thai ‘99 offers a variety of spice levels for any dish, including mild, medium, hot and “Thai hot.” As many of the herbs used in the dishes are sometimes hard to come by in Lynchburg, Kachornvanich explains that she grows them herself.

Everything on the menu looks incredible. Sipping As I sip my cha yen, I can’t decide what to order. Thai ’99 has a definite top seller, called Pad Thai. Pad Thai is a dish of green onions and red tofu in tamarind sauce. The dish is served over fried rice noodles with egg and topped with crushed peanut and bean sprou-ts.

Kachornvan-ich recommends her favorite, pad Grapao. Pad Grapao is a choice of chicken, pork or tofu, stir- fried with chili, garlic, basil leaf, zucchini, onions and red and green peppers. 

Finally, I make my decision. While almost every dinner is available with a choice of chicken or pork, I choose the Pad Khing with tofu. I’m not a vegetarian, but despite the snickers of my dinner companions, I love tofu and cannot get enough of the stuff. 

Dinner arrives – a. A heaping bowl of stir- fried tofu with onions, mushrooms, shredded ginger, red and green peppers and carrots. Kachornvanich rejoins the table and admonishes that the best way to enjoy Thai food “is to share with everyone.” My friends and I sample a little off each plate and I get to taste fried egg rolls: panang and pad woon-sent.  

As stated on, Thai cuisine varies greatly from region to region of the country. While the regional style of food at Thai ’99 is more general to Thailand than to a specific region, the menu does take a slant towards the cooking style of northern Thailand, where Kachornvanich is from, which uses a unique variety of vegetables that are indigenous to that region. Central Thailand tends to favor a sweeter array of dishes, while southern Thailand incorporates a wide variety of seafood.
Dinner is over, and the first words that come to my mind are “culinary triumph.” 

“The food was good and the service was great,” agrees sophomore Tom Prusak. Sophomore Steven Dooley says that Thai ’99 is “a very good cultural experience if you are looking for something new to try.”

Momentarily, I contemplate the Ruam-Mit for dessert. Ruam-Mit is a mixture of tapioca, jack fruit, palm seed, and jelly in coconut milk. Having already eaten way too much, I decide to save that for my most definite next visit to Thai 99.
Contact Jennifer Maxfield at

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