Thitinart Boriboon arrived in California to start a certification program at UCLA on March 16, 2020, just as all classes went virtual.
“March 20 the classes were moved online, and I realized that I didn’t need to be in LA,” the Fountain City resident said. “So, I reached out to my family here in Knoxville. I thought I would eventually move back to LA, but then I met more Thai people here and stayed.
“Before I moved here from Bangkok, I didn’t know how to cook,” Boriboon said. “I missed Thai food a lot, so I learned to cook.”
When Boriboon completed her program, she had a work visa that allowed her to put the marketing and media planning experience and training to good use.
“I have wanted to have my own business for years and I liked my food, so I thought ‘Why don’t I share this with friends and family here?’” she said. After enjoying the local food truck parks, Boriboon decided to launch AppeThai Knox, serving the appetizers and meals she has perfected.
Boriboon found the perfect truck in Montana — 2,700 miles away — that fit her tight budget. “It had the essentials, the fridge, work table and sink, but the previous owner sold mostly noodle dishes and I wanted to fry stuff and do more over rice-based dishes,” Boriboon said. “I put in the store and all of the new appliances. I did not want to invest a lot, so it took me a lot of tears.”
Initially, Boriboon planned to just set up pop-up shops. “I wanted to sell spring rolls and appetizers, but I found out that it is against the health rules, you can’t fry stuff as a pop-up store, so I chose the food truck,” she said. “I realized that people may want to get something more than appetizers, so I added three entrée dishes based on the food I like.”
Boriboon added Thai cashew chicken, a Panang chicken curry, and chicken fried rice. “I am going to add a vegan option and also, based on the customer feedback, I’ll add specials and a vegan option.”
The AppeThai menu also features house made spring rolls filled with ground chicken, cabbage, carrots and glass noodles and fried dumplings filled with chicken or beef. Both are served with Thai sweet chili sauce.
For something a little sweeter, there are fried banana rolls with brown sugar and cinnamon served with sugar and maple syrup for dessert.
“The spring rolls are hand rolled,” Boriboon said. “I saw that people would just get three or five rolls for their meal.”
The appetizers are popular at AppeThai’s regular events at Crafty Bastard, Printshop Beer Co. and SouthSide Garage, but it is the Thai cashew chicken that always sells out. “I get a lot of feedback that people can really feel some heat with it,” Boriboon said.
Everything is handmade fresh by Boriboon. She admits it is pretty time consuming, but the food is efficiently cooked to order on site for hungry customers.
“I have been getting into a rhythm and it does get easier, and I plan to expand more than two scheduled events a week,” she said. “I am excited to go to different places, so more people can try my food.
“We only sell food that we would make for our friends and family.”
Follow @AppeThaiKnox for an up-to-date schedule.