Kitiya Brings the Flavors of Thai Cuisine to Home Cooks
June 3, 2022
For Kitiya Ditpare Homs, cooking fresh food has been a lifelong passion that started in her family’s kitchen in Bangkok, where she was regularly surrounded by vibrant fragrances and bold flavors of Thai cuisine. After a decade of working in the corporate world, Kitiya could no longer resist pursuing her passion for cooking.
Now a Ferry Plaza Farmers Market regular, she continues to grow Kitiya Thai Eats and share classic Thai flavors, with her own twists, in the form of take-home products: Pad Thai Sauce, Nam Jim Ped (a spicy green sauce), Prik Gang Kio Wan (a green curry paste), Nam Jim Jow (a roasted tomato sauce), and Prik Gang Tai (a vegan southern style curry paste, showcased in Kitiya’s Lamb Jam Award winning dish). Kitiya talked with Foodwise about her passion for food, sustainability, and community that motivates her as she shares a taste of Thai cuisine and with the Bay Area.
Foodwise: Tell us a bit about the origins and inspiration for your business.
Kitiya: I grew up around food. It’s always brought happiness to me and my family. I am originally from Bangkok, Thailand, and came here to further my studies. Part of being Asian is having parents who want you to be stable and get your degree. I was in the corporate world for 10 years or so, then decided I wanted to follow my passion and jumped into the culinary world. I still think that was a great way of starting, and it helps me in business to some extent. But of course, what I’m doing now is totally different.
I started my catering business, and after the pandemic hit, I was thinking about what I can create that people can enjoy at home. I guess the pandemic pushed me to expand my business to create these packaged goods.
You’ve shared that your family had a restaurant in Thailand. Is this where your passion for food started?
Definitely. I think that my passion has come through helping my parents in the kitchen from a very young age. My mom would always give me tasks to help out with—little things like peeling or cutting something. I became so fond of it, but of course they said, “That can be your hobby, not something you should do as your profession.” I know that running a restaurant is a lot of work because my mom still has the restaurant. That’s why my vision is different from hers, and why I do catering instead of having a restaurant.
What values guide you in your business?
Being part of La Cocina makes me want to give back to the community more. La Cocina is such a great organization and has been giving so much to us. Through La Cocina, I have had the opportunity to be part of food insecurity relief programs (such as SF New Deal). For me, it’s very important to give back to society because, to some extent, we have all gained from it.
And, of course, sustainability. Everything in our products is grown in California. I’m trying to connect with more of the farmers in the market, but my food and the products that I’m offering are very special. We need specific types of ingredients, and of course not everyone has them. I think there’s only one farmer, GG Farm, who can help me with Thai basil and lemongrass.
What are some ingredients that are significant to Thai cuisine that you use regularly in your products, and where do you get those?
Makrut lime leaves. It’s citrus, so it brings that distinctive fragrance, and it’s very refreshing. It’s a pretty costly ingredient because it’s so hard to find. I actually have to go to a smaller, specialty Cambodian store in Oakland for those…or a friend’s house. My friend is so generous and gives me a bag every now and then of the fruit itself, which is common in Thailand, but in the U.S., you have to have a big tree in order to get any. Sometimes, I have to go get it from my aunt in Sacramento because she has a lot of trees.
What have been some of your biggest challenges as you’ve been developing your business?
With the pandemic and the economy, there’s a lot of inconsistency and you don’t know what to expect in the future. Labor has been an issue too. It’s hard to find someone to help in the industry. We’re just trying our best to stay in business and grow. We can only be positive and optimistic.
How does having a presence at the farmers market fit into your business?
I’m very happy to be here and very excited to have my own booth at Foodwise. I don’t have a brick and mortar, so it’s kind of like my brick and mortar store. The farmers market is where people know they can get my product. My presence at the farmers market is quite significant. I’m happy to be able to share my flavors with people in the Bay Area, and the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is the perfect place for it.
Is there anything people commonly ask you at the farmers market?
Generally, they ask me about the products, such as “What is the Southern Thai Curry Paste?” It’s similar to the Thai red curry paste, except it has a different ratio in the recipe, which I learned from my mom. There’s more fresh turmeric and also some black peppercorns in it. That makes the flavors different, and it tends to be spicier than red curry paste.
What keeps you going and excited for the future?
What keeps me going is my passion and how I want to share the flavors of my products and food with people. I love to see their smiles and how much they love it. That keeps me going. Also, I hope that I can grow this business into something more than just local. Hopefully, I can share these products with a lot of people in the entire country.
Find Kitiya – Thai Eats on the back plaza at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Topics: Building Equity program, Culinary, Food makers, Prepared foods