Story and images by Michele D. Baker
Jutamas Thai is the kind of place that when you find it, another piece of the puzzle drops into place and the Universe turns a little more smoothly on its axis.
I first discovered Jutamas on my birthday about 15 years ago. After a celebratory lunch at the original Timothy Lane location in Hattiesburg (rated #1 on Trip Advisor!), I knew I had stumbled onto something special... the kind of restaurant where everything is just how you hoped and the food tastes just like you want it to.
My favorite dish on the menu isn’t even an entrée. The Tom Kha soup, that traditional coconut milk, ginger and lemon grass concoction that lights up the palate with its delicate yet intense flavor; well, the first time I had this soup at Jutamas, I was hooked. This is a serious love, folks. I’ve traveled the world and eaten Thai food on several continents, but this particular soup is something special. In all the time I’ve ever eaten it, it has always tasted exactly the same, and it is always served piping hot in a blue china bowl with a matching lid.
This soup is perfect because owner Bordean “Dean” Pienpermpat and his wife Pai have arranged it that way. After driving from Jackson to Hattiesburg just for the soup, Dean came over to ask how I’d enjoyed my meal and was delighted to hear I’d come all that way. He explained that if they lack even a single ingredient, they do not offer the Tom Kha that day, because their customers have come to expect that it will taste the same every time. (It does.)
Besides consistent flavor, other touches add to the experience, as well. A chef/artist must work in the kitchen because every plate comes to the table artfully arranged: tomato peel roses, carved carrot crowns, and a perfect line of Sriracha sauce adorning one edge. Vegetables are cut into exact cubes, green onions are sliced into uniform circles, and sauce is artfully drizzled atop sizzling meats.
Besides the soup, there are other delicious things on the menu, too, of course: the Larb is excellent, as are the spring rolls and the Toong Tong, those little crispy pastries stuffed with pork, shrimp and crab meat.
Among my favorite dinners are Honey Pork, Volcano Shrimp, Drunken Noodles, and of course, the Pad Thai. I am also deeply in love with their Mussaman Curry (with extra peanuts), and the Pumpkin Red Curry is a revelation over rice.
Traditional desserts include mango with sticky rice, fried ice cream, fried banana with ice cream (great for birthdays) and the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake. The Thai Iced Tea is also superb, if slightly sweet for my taste buds as I grow older.
As the Jutamas empire expands, there are now three locations: two in Hattiesburg (910 Timothy Lane and 6156 Hwy. 98) and a new location in Ridgeland (500 Hwy. 51 North). I have found that the original Timothy Lane location is only equaled by its newer Ridgeland sister restaurant, a beautiful place to have soup and spring rolls for lunch on a sunny weekday. I’m so in love with Dean’s Tom Kha soup, I’ll finish with a bold assertion: if they don’t serve this soup in Heaven, I’m not going.
Find out more at JutamasThaiMS.com.