Thai Thai Asian Bistro is expanding westward.

Aimorn Strickland, owner of the popular Main Street eatery, is opening a second location in the new strip mall at 24th NW and Tecumseh. Her goal is to have a soft opening just before Christmas.

After eight years on Main Street, she said she’s finally ready.

“We’ve been wanting to go to the west side,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of customers on the northwest side and that area doesn’t have anything yet. That’s the corner we’ve been looking for for a long time.”

It won’t be the first westward move for Aimorn, who hails from Thailand. After meeting Normanite husband Clint Strickland in 2002, she moved to Norman in 2005. Five years later, she was open for business.

Aimorn said everyone calls her Koi, a nickname that she brought with her from Thailand. She also brought keen culinary ability honed over years of practice. That’s where she learned how to cook. It’s also where she came to love it.

“In Thailand, I grew up with a big family and my grandparents have a lot of land for rice paddies,” she said. “So we always served a lot of people and I always cooked with my dad and my grandma, since I was 7 years old. I grew up with it.”

Her family had a restaurant, too.

“My dad always had a restaurant outside the house,” she said. “You know, to set up a restaurant in Thailand it’s not that hard. You just put two tables together with a wok and a stove and you’re done.”

Looking back on nearly a decade as a business owner in Norman, Koi said she remembers being anxious in the beginning, but all of that was lost in the kitchen.

“I think if you do something you love to do it’s not like going to work,” she said. “I like to cook. I like to talk to people. I enjoy it.

“Even when we’re closed on Mondays, I stay at home and I cook anyway. I spoil my family because my daughter, my husband, whatever they want to eat they just ‘order it’ at the house.”

Norman has more than its fair share of tasty Thai options (Thai Kum Koon, Thai Delight, Pad Thai, Sweet Basil, just to name a few) but Koi claims there are a couple of dishes that Thai Thai does best, including evil jungle curry.

Though I don’t necessarily agree, on account of having a soft spot for nearly every iteration of evil jungle curry on offer, it’s really hard to disagree.

Thai Thai Asian Bistro’s evil jungle curry gets everything right with its sweet and spicy flavor, and the chicken version always includes bountiful, perfectly minced chicken.

She has many loyal customers that already know this, and she knows many of them by name. Some are household names, too, like Oklahoma-born Broadway legend Kristin Chenoweth.

Patrons come for Koi’s Thai iced tea — a sweet drink that tastes of milk and sugar — and dishes like Pad Kra Pao, a traditional basil stir-fry dish topped with a fried egg that Koi said amounts to comfort food in Thailand.

It is a frequent special, and Koi said she doesn’t have to dumb anything down. Norman has an international palate, she said, and a steady stream of international students doesn’t hurt.

“People like it,” she said. “So, I don’t have to make American style. I can make original food, the real deal from scratch.”

Koi said she hand-picks ingredients every morning at Sprout’s. It’s a convenient trip from the Main Street restaurant and for many reasons the original is in a great location, right in the thick of the action, especially when Norman High School is in session. Still, Koi said it will be good to have both a central location and one that gives patrons easier access from the highway.

“Over there people can avoid traffic and get off the highway and get in there,” she said. “There are a lot of ways to go.”

Mack Burke is an investigative reporter and award-winning feature writer and columnist for The Norman Transcript. An OU alumnus, he has lived in Norman since 2003.