(SALEM) - A dream that Sawarang (Sue) Sparkman has nurtured for 30 years has finally come true.
Sue has opened her own restaurant, Sue's Thai Kitchen, at 105 S. Main St., Salem.
"She loves for people to enjoy her food," her husband, Howard, who is probably her biggest supporter, explained.
Marcia Walker, of the Salem Leader reports, Sue was born and raised in Thailand. She and Howard met while he was stationed in that country with the US. Air Force. Sue, the fourth of eight children, grew up in a family of rice farmers. She learned to cook as a child and the dishes offered at her restaurant are authentic.
"Kids stayed home like the Amish," she said. "Amish kids know how to work."
Although her restaurant features Thai cuisine, Howard said his wife is a natural when it comes to cooking, adapting her skills to wherever they ended up living . While stationed in South Carolina, Sue learned how to make southern dishes; when stationed out west, she learned how to prepare Mexican cuisine.
"She can cook anything," Howard said. "She watched my grandmother make biscuits, she made them just from watching her."
Sue worked in the hospital kitchen for a number of years and also spent six years at Christie's. "I know a lot of people here," she said. "They call me Sue Baby. I have a lot of family and friends here in Salem."
Signature dishes at Sue's Thai Kitchen include pad Thai, fried rice and noodle soups. Dishes are made from scratch; ingredients are purchased in Louisville where there is a large Vietnamese community. Sue also grows some ingredients, including peppers, cilantro and lemongrass.
Dishes are offered with five different levels of spiciness, depending on the tastes of the customer.
Howard said the first few days the restaurant opened, they were overwhelmed and some people had to wait longer than usual to be served.
"The first few days, we only had two woks," he said, adding that service is faster now.
Howard said a big challenge is finding enough help. One of Sue's sisters, Kim, has been helping out. The couple has two children and six grandchildren with a seventh on the way. Sue's Thai Kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. It is closed Sundays, but Howard said those hours may change.
Carryout orders can be accommodated. For more information, call 586-0428.
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