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Ricky’s Thai to Open a Sequel in Skillman, Ricky’s Asian Fusion

By Adam Espejo | Posted January 11, 2024 (Updated at 5 pm)

Montgomery Township icon Ricky Chai, owner of Ricky’s Thai, is adding a second restaurant about a mile down the road from his Skillman restaurant. This will mark his second restaurant in Skillman. He also has successful restaurants in Hillsborough and Bernardsville.

Ricky’s Asian Fusion to open in February in the Princeton North Shopping Center in Skillman.

The new restaurant, to be called Ricky’s Asian Fusion, is located in the Princeton North Shopping Center on Route 206 in Skillman. It will replace previous eatery, the Hunan Restaurant, which closed suddenly in 2023. While the new location is just about a mile south of Chai’s other Skillman restaurant (Ricky’s Thai in Village Walk also on Route 206), it will be a new variation on a familiar theme.

What Is Asian Fusion?

Asian fusion food uses multiple existing cuisines to create something new. Rather than serve a dish traditionally, fusion restaurants combine two or three types of cuisines into a single dish. For example, you might find food that combines dishes from multiple Asian cultures, such as a Chinese beef stew served with Korean kimchi. You might also come across Western-inspired fusions on the menu, such as sushi pizza or pad Thai tacos. The range of dishes depends on the restaurant — some Asian fusion establishments focus on “fusing” one type of cuisine while others run the gamut.

The Montgomery News was lucky enough to catch Chai during his busy schedule and have a conversation about where he came from, where he is now, and where he’s going. This new location will feature the best dishes from Chai’s Thai restaurants, as well as classic dishes from other East Asian cultures, such as China, Singapore, and Malaysia. “Hopefully, I can make this place suit the community and bring the best food into this area,” he says.

Chai’s Story

Chai first came to America in 1988 from Malaysia and began his career as a waiter. Through hard work and determination, it wasn’t long before he was promoted to management. He managed a Chinese restaurant in Tennessee for nearly a decade before he opened his first restaurant in Hillsborough in 2004 with his business partner. Originally, this restaurant was named Thai Kitchen, but when Chai’s partner retired in 2014, Chai and his wife, Leng, took over the restaurant and decided it needed a name change.

From left: Leng Chai, Ricky Chai, and Head Chef Chai Yo Thongpanich.

While attempting to come up with a name for his new restaurant, Chai was struggling and turned to his customers for help. “Everybody who goes to the restaurant knows you, they know your name. So why not call it Ricky’s Thai?” And thus Ricky’s Thai in Hillsborough was born. In the same year, Chai also opened his Skillman location.

Chai attributes a good deal of his success to his menu, which was designed by his head chef, Chai Yo Thongpanich. Thongpanich also emigrated from Southeast Asia (in 1981) and spent 15 years as an executive chef in Manhattan before relocating to Somerville in 1996. Thongpanich and Chai began their partnership in 2004, and have been together ever since.

A significant source of pride for Chai is the fact that every meal served in Ricky’s Thai is cooked to order. “No matter when you come here, today, tomorrow, snow or sunshine, it’s all the same, it’s not precooked,” Chai says.

This dedication to fresh food and customer satisfaction will carry over to Chai’s newest establishment, called Ricky’s Asian Fusion. Located just down the road on Route 206, Chai sees this as an opportunity to bring all the fan-favorite dishes from his previous restaurants. Expansion is at the forefront of Chai’s mind. He already has plans to open a fifth location in New Jersey, and ambitions of locations further afield are also swirling in the back of his mind.

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Ricky’s Asian Fusion was scheduled to open in January, but will now open in February. For the grand opening, Chai says he wants to give thanks to his loyal customers for supporting him.

“I am very thankful for our customers and the community’s support for Ricky’s Thai,” Chai says. He adds that he looks forward to welcoming the community to the new restaurant with celebrations, special offers, and great food.

Ricky’s Asian Fusion

Princeton North Shopping Center

Route 206, Skillman, NJ

(609) 285.2955


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