Chef Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, who quickly grew a following in Philly for the uncompromisingly spicy dishes at her southern Thai restaurant Kalaya, opens a food shop Friday, October 2, just down the street from the restaurant in the historic Italian Market. Sandwiched between Claudio Specialty Foods and Di Bruno Bros.’s bottle shop, the new Kalaya Thai Market sells a mix of prepared foods and ingredients for cooking at home.
When Suntaranon first took over the space last year, at 922 S. Ninth Street, it became a commissary kitchen where the Kalaya crew could prep for service at the restaurant. But Suntaranon quickly realized it would also work for some kind of retail. “I grew up helping my mom work in a market,” says Suntaranon, who is originally from Thailand. “So I wanted to honor that.”
Fans of Suntaranon’s cooking will find the shelves stocked with items to (attempt to) recreate her dishes at home, like sticky rice, tamarind paste, and fresh turmeric, galangal, and pandan leaf. She’s also selling the hand-pounded curry pastes she uses at the restaurant. Once it’s up and running, the market will be open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“I want it to be another way for people to connect with the restaurant,” Suntaranon says. “If you come here and there are ingredients you’ve never seen, you can ask us any questions about how to use them and we’ll guide you through the process.”
For those not in the mood to cook, the market sells a rotating selection of grab-and-go dishes, like Thai salads, curries, and stir-fries, designed to be eaten at home — or head to Piazza DiBruno, a formerly empty lot across the street that gourmet grocer Di Bruno Bros. has outfitted with umbrella-topped tables for outdoor dining. Look for favorites from the restaurant’s menu, like the papaya salad, alongside new dishes like hor mok, a steamed curry usually made with fish. Since it’s a different model, prices at Kalaya Thai Market will be cheaper than at the restaurant, Suntaranon says.
“There are so many things I want to cook that I can’t do at Kalaya,” Suntaranon says. “At the market, I have the opportunity to cook new things because there are things that I can’t take off the menu at Kalaya now. The menu can only be so big, but with the market I can change it every day or every week.”
Beyond the market menu, Suntaranon plans to host private cooking classes and also offer the space for guest chefs to cook and sell their food. Gregory Headen, a Food Network Chopped champion and co-organizer of the Everybody Eats food security project, is the first chef to take advantage of the new space. He’ll be offering grab-and-go dishes on Friday.
On Saturday, James Beard Award-winning baker Camille Cogswell kicks off an ongoing weekend pop-up she’s calling Hey Sweetie. It’s only her second solo project — after a pop-up series at the Bok building — since she was let go from her roles at Mike Solomonov’s K’Far and Zahav. For now, she’s taking inspiration from her childhood in North Carolina, but isn’t sure what she’ll make next.
“Having worked for other people for so long, and cooking their cuisine, I’m still finding what my food is, or what my style is,” Cogswell says. “The flavors and the vibes are fun and familiar for me, but I’m also excited to experiment.”
This weekend, expect cookies, cakes, ham and cheese buns, apple pies, and banana cream pies, made in the Kalaya Thai Market kitchen and available via pre-order. They’re selling out quickly, but Cogswell says she’ll have a few items available for purchase onsite from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., for people who aren’t able to get their orders in.
Cogswell is donating all of the proceeds from Hey Sweetie’s first day to Black Voters Matter, a group working to expand voting access in Black communities. It’s supported by Bake the Vote, a project from the Bakers Against Racism organization. Cogswell is a regional coordinator for Bakers Against Racism.
Suntaranon says this is just the start: She’s looking forward to hosting more chefs at the market in the future.
“It’s a time where we should be supporting chefs,” she says “If there’s something I can do, I’ll do it with no hesitation.”