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How We Started

Sa Bai is the first restaurant for husband and wife: Eric and Atchara “Holly” Willis.

Eric came to the valley from South Carolina soon after college 15 years ago and has managed several local restaurants and catering companies ever since.

Holly came to Phoenix just 4 years ago from Chang Mai, Thailand after college as well. Holly has worked and managed at many of the valley’s best Thai eateries. Holly and Eric both enjoy the food, people and lifestyle that surround a restaurant. As a team they match traditional Thai food with modern American (farang) style. It is their idea to create a restaurant not just to feed people, but to bring people together as well!

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Concept

Thai cuisine is the national cuisine of Thailand. Thai cuisine places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. Thai cuisine is known for being spicy. Balance, detail and variety are important to Thai cooking. Thai food is known for its balance of the five fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: hot (spicy), sour, sweet, salty, and (optional) bitter.

Influences

Although popularly considered a single cuisine, Thai food would be more accurately described as four regional cuisines corresponding to the four main regions of the country: Northern, Northeastern (or Isan), Central, and Southern, each cuisine sharing similar foods or foods derived from those of neighboring countries and regions: Burma, the Chinese province of Yunnan and Laos to the north, Cambodia, Laos and to the east and Malaysia to the south of Thailand. In addition to these four regional cuisines, there is also the Thai Royal Cuisine which can trace its history back to the palace cuisine of the Ayutthaya kingdom (1351–1767 CE). Its refinement, cooking techniques and its use of ingredients were of great influence to the cuisine of the Central Thai plains.

The culinary traditions and cuisines of Thailand’s neighbors have influenced Thai cuisine over many centuries. Regional variations tend to correlate to neighboring states as well as climate and geography. Southern curries tend to contain coconut milk and fresh turmeric, while northeastern dishes often include lime juice. The cuisine of Northeastern (or Isan) Thailand is heavily influenced by Lao cuisine. Many popular dishes eaten in Thailand were originally Chinese dishes which were introduced to Thailand mainly by the Teochew people who make up the majority of the Thai Chinese. Such dishes include chok (rice porridge), kuai-tiao rat na (fried rice-noodles) and khao kha mu (stewed pork with rice). The Chinese also introduced the use of a wok for cooking, the technique of deep-frying and stir-frying dishes, and noodles and soy products.