Malisa Monyakula from Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop – Westwood
It’s true that many KC Originals restaurants got their starts in families with long “foodie” pedigrees and recipes passed down for generations. Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop and the recently opened Lulu’s Asian Bistro shares a similar story but with a few unique twists. Malisa [aka “Lisa” or “Lulu”] was born here in Bangkok, Thailand like her Dad, Prateeb Monyakula, a civil engineer by trade. He discovered his love of cooking when he volunteered to cook for his fellow engineers on a major dam project in the Thai jungles. They were missing home cooking and Prateeb prevailed upon his Mom to give him her family recipes for all their favorite dishes. A few years later, when he headed up an engineering crew that came to Colorado to work on a similar project, he once again became the food hero, cooking up those delicious memories of home at their isolated camp. While living in the US he met Malisa’s Mom, and the rest as they say “is history.” In the years since, he continues to cook regularly for large family gatherings at home back in Thailand. And he says that the secret to being a rock star in the kitchen is to “love what you do, cook with love – be passionate about it!”
Clearly, that passion was inherited by his daughter Malisa who went to college in Lawrence, KS – and then created a job for herself by opening a restaurant there, then eventually here in Kansas City. Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop came first and established a strong menu built primarily on the authentically Thai recipes passed on from her Dad and his family. Lulu’s famous Peanut Sauce and Thai Curry Paste are staples from that collection and the Satay Chicken and Pad Thai are two of the recipes shared by her Dad. While both the Noodle Shop and the new Asian Bistro have benefitted from Malisa’s own culinary creativity and sensitivity to the Western palates of guests, the flavor profiles at both locations clearly represent their strong foundations in Thai food. Cinnamon, cilantro, garlic, onions, lemon grass, Thai chiles, curry, coconut, and many other exotic flavors are expertly blended in savory dishes that blend sweet with sour and come in a range of heats – from mildy spicy to 5-alarm.
Malisa readily acknowledges the debt she owes to her Dad for his love of cooking and her appreciation for the wonderful family meals she has experienced with her Dad running the kitchen. She has tons of memories “enjoying food in the context of friends of family where it’s all about sharing – an opportunity to have fun.” From the get go Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop flourished in its journey and based on the packed houses for lunch & dinner it appears the Asian Bistro is on the same path. Malisa clearly believes in what she does — “embracing what food is, and the multiple styles in which the same product can be prepared” – each with its own unique twists. The Asian Bistro, which will gradually explore other Asian cuisines beyond Thai, is a further expression of Malisa’s food vision. At it’s heart is the lifelong commitment to preparing “really good food, healthy and fresh, that guests to the restaurant really enjoy eating.” As you read that, think “food lovingly & passionately prepared” – that’s the secret of this Father/Daughter collaboration.