“Affordable Fancy Food” Equals Good Karma

BoonChoo only saves room for freshness

“Meow and Mey” have been cooking since they were kids.
Portrait by Rachel Pressley

“We’re the rest stop that was changed into the best stop,” says “Meow,” co-owner of BoonChoo Thai Express, positioned in a strip mall next to a busy exit along I-26 in Flat Rock. 

When Meow and her sister and business partner, “Mey” — who asked to use their Thai nicknames for this piece — were growing up in their native country, their mother taught them to cook in a serious homegrown style, bringing in fresh vegetables from their backyard garden and even “going out in the woods to pick mushrooms,” recalls Meow. “We would eat the vegetables and flowers from the woods, too, and we grew our own rice. It was farm-to-plate at home, so we had to learn to cook really young.”

After high school, Meow attended a four-year international school for accounting and business management. She spent her first ten years in Hendersonville working as co-owner of Thai Spice. 

Mey graduated from high school, attended a high-end culinary school, and studied at a five-star hotel in Thailand. “I was really passionate about it,” she says. “My uncle’s friend wanted to open a Thai fusion restaurant there, so I helped build their menu.” She then worked under the head chef at a celebrated restaurant in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. “I learned from them and grew from them,” she notes.

Nearly three years ago, when Meow found a space in Flat Rock to open her latest restaurant, Mey decided to join her, and they begin creating their own recipes. 

“We like to be a cheap, but healthy and friendly, local restaurant,” Meow says. (Mey notes that BoonChoo also serves local beer and wine, Thai beer, ginger beer, and traditionally sweet Thai tea and coffee.)

Panang Curry
Photo by Rachel Pressley

What’s your style?

Meow: We’re simple. You could say that we serve affordable, fancy fast food.

Mey: We work with fine-dining ingredients. We spend a lot on ingredients. Around here, we hand cut everything. Our [accessible] location gives locals a good opportunity for fresh food, too. 

Where does your food get its rich flavor?

Mey: We don’t skip steps and leave out parts of the process when cooking. There’s no cheating allowed. We like to keep a heavy spice and flavor here for a stronger taste. Our food is authentic to Northeast Thailand — spicy, sour, and salty.

Why do you think customers love your restaurant so much?

Meow: It’s really casual. We named it “BoonChoo” because it means good karma, and that’s what we believe in.

Mey: I think people like the [freshness]. We have a small refrigerator in the back, so the produce has to come in fast and go out fast. We go out to eat and we expect freshness like we serve, but we don’t find it. Also, no one has this level of spice.

Meow: And she means spicy!

What are some of your own favorite menu items?

Mey: I like our Drunken Noodle. It’s egg noodle, spices, fresh pepper corn, basil, broccoli, carrots, and any kind of meat can be added. I like beef. Our Papaya Salad has chili, garlic, a little bit of sugar, lime, tomato, papaya, and fish sauce, which we make here in the house. 

BoonChoo Thai Express, 576 Upward Road, Unit 1, Flat Rock. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-3pm and 4:30-8:30pm (closed on Christmas Day; open New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day). boonchoothai.com. Facebook: @BoonChoo Thai Express. Instagram: @boonchoo_thaiexpress. 828-435-9077.

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