Maithai In Helsinki Delivers Traditional Thai Dishes

“When we opened up on Annankatu in 1995, things were very different. I think there were two Thai restaurants to make landfall in Helsinki before us. now there are probably nearer twenty of them”, says Malee Lapveteläinen of Maithai to the finnishs newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.
In addition to her involvement with the restaurant, she has also taught a number of Thai chefs who have come to Finland.
Nextdoor to Maithai is the Malay-Chinese New Bamboo Center, which was already in business when the Thai restaurant moved in. Next door to this is Pikku Nepal (“Little Nepal”), a relative newcomer from two years ago.
Malee Lapveteläinen moved to Finland almost exactly thirty years ago. Again, things were rather different here in the 1970s.
“Back then there may have been a dozen or so Thai nationals in the entire country. Now there are around 3,000 of us”, she says.
Aside from culinary´matters, Lapveteläinen has sought to promote Thai culture in these northern latitudes by being an active member of the Finnish-Thai Buddhist Association. The 1,000-strong community has a Buddhist temple of its own in Sipoo.
Since last summer, Maithai has not been open for lunches on weekdays.
“Working from morning until late in the evening every day got to be enough for us”, says Malee’s Finnish husband and partner in the business Ari Lapveteläinen.
“What with the rising cost of the raw materials, the margins on serving lunch were getting cut to the bone, in part because a couple of Thai buffet places have opened up in the vicinity”, says Malee Lapveteläinen.
The couple decided to respond to the competition by offering an inexpensive “late lunch” for 10 euros.
Now the restaurant concentrates on evenings and weekends.
“The spices are the A and O of Thai cooking. I haven’t told all my seasoning secrets even to our own chefs, but I often spice things myself”, laughs Malee.
“The recipes on our menu come from all over Thailand – the same ones my family has been using for generations.”

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