Nong Poonsukwattana arrived in America from her native Thailand in April of 2003 without much money to her name. Ten years later, she is now the owner of one of Portland's most popular food carts, Nong's Khao Man Gai, a mini empire that includes two carts, and a take-out kitchen. Portlanders — and visiting travelers — go bananas for her signature chicken and rice dish, khao man gai. So why stop there? In the coming years, Poonsukwattana hopes to expand her single-dish concept to New York, Austin, and Hawaii, while also selling her Khao Man Gai sauce nationwide.
While all of those plans certainly make Poonsukwattana a busy person, she met up with Eater National last week for some ping pong at Zach's Shack. In the following interview, Poonsukwattana talks about the years of struggle that led to her success with Nong's Khao Man Gai, why she's taken up hobbies like ping pong recently in what she calls "the calm before the storm," and what comes next.