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Native of Laos brings Thai cuisine to China Grove

By Robin Perry
For the Salisbury Post
China Grove has a new restaurant on Main Street, Mala’s Thai Café. This cafe adds another dining option to the town, this time Thai and Japanese cuisine at 117 North Main St.
Mala Martin is a native of Laos, where her family had a small restaurant, and she had always wanted to have a restaurant of her own.
She came to the U.S. about six years ago, first to visit her brother in Washington.
In Laos, she was a teacher of music and dance for the arts department of the government. She also was a popular singer there, with more than 50 albums. While performing at a benefit in Belmont, she met John Martin, from Salisbury, and they were later married. Mala previously worked at Bangkok Garden.
She searched the area from Salisbury to Charlotte to find just the right location for her café, including Concord, Statesville, and Gastonia. The building in China Grove was available (across the street from F&M Bank) and it fit the criteria well: smaller town, no other Thai restaurant, just the right size.
The restaurant seats 61 and she is adding her own touches, with artwork, table coverings that are handmade from Laos, and other decor from her native home. The music playing in the background is one of her own CDs, with some of her children singing too.
Since opening Dec. 18, she has been pleased with the response.
The cafe is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 pm to 9 p.m. On Sunday, the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Jerry McInnis and his mother, Ruth Strickland, were enjoying their first visit to Mala’s recently and said the food was excellent and they would definitely return.
Melanie Trexler and her son, Zach Shuping, of China Grove, had been looking forward to Mala’s opening.
“I saw the sign for the new restaurant when I was at F&M bank and we were waiting for it to open” Trexler said. They both love Thai food and are glad to have the restaurant right in town.
The menu offers a variety of Thai dishes with freshly made sauces, including herbs and spices such as lemongrass, kalanga, lime leaf and basil.
Popular items include tom ka (coconut soup), panang curry, sesame chicken and pad Thai.
Desserts include coconut sticky rice and mango and Thai doughnuts. Mala’s also offers Japanese items such as teriyaki and hibachi chicken, beef, pork or shrimp.
Prices range from $4.99 to $9.99.

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