Aunyanuch Yamamoto, who everyone calls Pum, remembers chopping vegetables at Aloha Plates in the Chinatown International District (CID), looking across the street at Great State Burger, fantasizing about if she had that space to open her own restaurant.
Years later, Yamamoto realized her fantasy when she opened E-Jae Pak Mor on April 5.
Before opening her restaurant, Yamamoto made food for her Thai friends, always receiving high praise. Yamamoto said this made her realize she wanted to open her own place to cook dishes for Thai people who miss the type of Thai food you can’t find in Seattle.
“This food is not too popular for American people,” Yamamoto said. “People know about Thai food, but they only know about pad see ew and pad thai. Thai food has something more — that is the kind of dish I want to bring to people.”
Yamamoto first moved to from Thailand to the CID in 2008, remaining for 14 years before deciding to move to West Seattle with her friend this past summer.
Only seven days after her move to West Seattle, she received a call from a friend, who told her that Great State Burger was vacating their space and that it was now for sale. Weeks later, Yamamoto moved back to the CID to work toward achieving her lifelong dream of owning and running her own restaurant.
The name of the restaurant, “E-Jae Pak Mor,” has two parts — “e-jae” which means “older sister,” and “pak mor,” referencing the traditional Thai street food dish.
In Thailand, an older friend can be called “e-jae” and while its use is typically considered impolite, it can also be a term of endearment in the right setting, Yamamoto said.
“If you call another female that, it means you are really close to that person,” said Yamamoto’s partner Pakpoom Yalodom, who also goes by Tom.
Yamamoto incorporated many personal touches into the making of her restaurant, including serving recipes she originally learned from her grandma’s cooking.
Pak mor, which originated in Vietnam, is a steamed rice flour wrap, usually containing either tofu or chicken, or other fixings like peanut butter, egg, and pork.
“We took a risk when we first opened,” Yalodom said. “People came in and look at the menu, and they can’t even pronounce it, they look at the name of the restaurant and they can’t even pronounce it, so they say let’s go have lo mein or pho, but once they try it, mostly they come back.”
Yalodom, who moved here from Thailand in 2002 to pursue an education at Seattle Central College, has seen other Thai restaurants come and go in the CID.
“In Chinatown, it’s pretty tough for other Asian nationalities to bring something unique and authentic for Asian people to come and try,” Yalodom said. “But you won’t find any of this in other Thai restaurants, except in [Los Angeles] because they have a Thai Town.”
Chinatown was the happy medium for Yamamoto and Yalodom in terms of location.
“Vietnamese and Taiwanese people come in and already know what pak mor is,” Yamamoto said. “But I want to find people who already love Thai food and let them know there is something else, and educate them about this kind of dish.”
Yalodom noted that they have mostly been receiving five-star reviews from those who visit.
Monisha Singh, Executive Director of Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area, also added that a place like the CID, which is heavily dominated by small business and family-owned stores, is a great place for E-Jae Pak Mor to take a risk.
“Seattlelites have a certain curiosity around new types of food,” said Singh. “So being in Seattle and the Chinatown International District, I think they are really well-poised for new types of foods.”
On top of educating people about different kinds of Thai food, Yamamoto said her main goal for the restaurant is for her employees to be happy and financially stable.
“They are so authentic and true to themselves,” Singh said. “I really appreciate [Yamamoto’s] authenticity she brings into her business.”
Yamamoto says when she’s at work now, she looks across the street at Aloha Plates and remembers chopping vegetables with fond memories.
“I never dreamed I would get this place, this is more than my dream,” Yamamoto said.
E-Jae Pak Mor plans to expand their menu in the months after opening. They are open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, and can be found on socials @ejaepakmor.