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Hot 20 2010: Wassana Korkhieola and Lalita Souksamlane, Owners, Osha Thai

Photography by John Lee

Wassana Korkhieola, 37, and Lalita Souksamlane, 39
Owners, Osha Thai

Ask Thailand natives Lalita Souksamlane or Wassana Korkhieola about the time Radiohead dined at Osha Thai, and they’ll look at you blankly. The sisters’ idea of a celebrity is more like chef Charles Phan of the Slanted Door, whose take on Vietnamese food has provided inspiration for Osha’s own mini-empire.

The first Osha Thai debuted in 1996, and since then, six more have opened across the city. The newest is in SoMa’s former Bong Su space and serves Thai food in a modern restaurant designed by Souksamlane’s husband. Throw in some club music and reasonably priced, if not untraditional, takes on Thai food (beef wasabi rolls, bacon-wrapped scallops), and you have a packed house.

Things have changed in the 14 years since the sisters lived above their first location in the Tenderloin and worked 16-hour days in the kitchen. “Then, people were stuck on pad thai,” says Souksamlane. Their second, sleeker location on Valencia Street came seven years later. As for the future, they’re envisioning an Osha Thai that focuses on organic meats and vegetables.

Today, the sisters live in South SF with their families. “My kids like it here better than Thailand,” says Souksamlane. “The traffic is better. The weather is better. San Francisco’s cold summers are still better than 110 degrees.”