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Malai Kitchen: Chefs Braden and Yasmin Wages show off their love of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine 

By Jaidyn HaysApril 12, 2024April 30th, 2024No Comments

Malai Kitchen: Chefs Braden and Yasmin Wages show off their love of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine

By Natalie Lozano Trimble
Photos by Jill Johnson

For Braden and Yasmin Wages of Malai Kitchen, joining the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival’s Main Event every year is an easy yes, especially since it’s held down the street from their Fort Worth location in The Shops at Clearfork.

The couple, who met in college, fell in love with the cuisine of Thailand and Vietnam while traveling the world. After working for Hillstone restaurants in Southern California and Dallas, they felt ready to open their own place. The first Malai Kitchen opened in Dallas in 2011 before expanding to Southlake in 2016 and then Fort Worth’s Shops at Clearfork in 2017.

Their menu centers on Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, and they strive for authenticity in every recipe, which means they not only visit the region at least once a year, but they’ve started sending employees, too. Everyone who has worked for Malai Kitchen for three years is eligible for this benefit. So far, 18 employees have qualified. Malai covers a round-trip flight to Bangkok, Saigon or Hanoi, and includes a five-day stipend.

“The employee can extend the vacation and travel internally as they wish,” Yasmin says. “We always help guide them with internal flights, restaurant suggestions, things to do, etc.” Adds Braden, “It’s a way to kind of give back, and it inspires.”

Another distinctive feature they’ve added is making their rice noodles from scratch, which is “very rare in the world,” according to Braden.
The process began with sourcing equipment from Vietnam in 2021. “We didn’t start actually serving the noodles from the machine until the end of 2022,” Yasmin says. “We thought it would be so easy. ‘Rice flour, check, water, check’ but it was not.”

To produce the high-quality noodles they were looking for, the two realized they would need to import rice flour from Vietnam. Their persistence paid off, and now one location makes the flat and pho noodles for each restaurant and delivers them daily. “We still have about four other styles of noodles that we do not make in-house,” Yasmin says.

This commitment to creating as much as possible from scratch has been their aim from day one, and it ultimately boils down to wanting to share what they’ve experienced while traveling with others.

Malai has been participating in the festival since 2018. “It’s great to get all of the best local restaurants together in one place,” Braden says. “We don’t get to spend time with those guys very often, so getting to catch up is awesome.” But it’s not just about the culinary camaraderie. “It’s amazing to see how many people at the festival love the restaurant,” he says. “We definitely look forward to it every year.”

Yasmin, who grew up in Fort Worth, also appreciates how the festival is a celebration of the city’s culinary evolution. “There’s so much great variety,” she says. “It’s not just a steak, barbecue, and Mexican restaurant city anymore, and we’re thrilled to be part of that expansion!”


Visit Malai Kitchen

5289 Monahans Ave, Fort Worth, TX 76109