Watt Sriboonruang is looking for a little peace and quiet when she visits Buffalo next week.
She’s used to a lot more activity.
Sriboonruang, 37, grew up in Bangkok, Thailand and moved to New York City nine years ago.
“The craziness is the same level” in those two cities, she told me earlier this week during an interview for today’s What are You Eating? feature in WNY Refresh. “It’s very congested. Bangkok is very diverse but not as diverse as New York. You can pretty much get everything there. The city never sleeps. You can get exhausted sometimes. Like New York, it’s very cosmopolitan.”
The professional photographer came to Manhattan to seek opportunity. She has found it during the last year or so combining her photo skills with her passion for a mostly “raw vegan” lifestyle.
She generally sticks to cold fruits and vegetable dishes, drinks and desserts that must be “delicious, healthy and easy.” They pack more health benefits, she said, and take longer to digest, so they keep you feeling full for a longer period of time – and pack way, way more energy– than processed foods.
That’s important for the Lower East Side resident, because she also is an amateur Muay Thai fighter.
And that helps explain her Buffalo connection: She met her future husband, professional Muay Thai fighter Chris “the Polish Punisher” Kwiatkowski, at Coban’s Muay Thai, the East Side gym where they both train.
Kwiatkowski, who grew up in Western New York, is the son of Buffalo News reporter Jane Kwiatkowski Radlich.
“It takes some personality to do well in this sport,” Sriboonruang said. “Not everybody wants to fight. At the beginning, I did not want to fight, but as you keep doing it, you want to know how good you are. You want to know how far you can go.”
Muay Thai – pronounced “Moy Tie” – is a traditional Thai martial art akin to kickboxing.
You can throw blows with your hands, feet, elbows and knees, but you can’t grapple on the ground as do wrestlers.
Ultimate fighters looking to break into the UFC, and excel there, often train in Muay Thai gyms and have made the martial arts form more popular in recent years.
The couple plan to marry in Thailand sometime next winter.
Her new career started last year in her Muay Thai gym, when Sriboonruang started making cold raw vegan pies and bringing them in.
The pies are gluten-, dairy- and soy-free raw fruit and veggie concoctions that have gained steam through word of mouth and her Facebook page, facebook.com/rawsomenyc.
She made dozens of them by request last holiday seasons and hundreds this year. Banana cream, coffee, and cocoa and freeze dried raspberry are three customer favorites, as are her crusts, many of them made with a creamy base made of blended cashews.
Two New York City restaurants –Bistango and Brooklyn Comfort – sell the pies by the slice, and other city eateries have expressed an interest.
Her pies have become so popular she has brought in “helpers” to keep up with the demand, and investors now look to help her open her own shop in Manhattan, Sriboonruang said.
In the days, and years ahead, Buffalo will be able to share in this taste of New York.
Sriboonruang has sold out two smoothie workshops in Buffalo next weekend and plans another on Friday at Be Healthy Institute, on Main Street in the Village of Hamburg. Register by emailing email@example.com; the cost is $40.
“Our participants learn the foundations of smoothie making that pursue three concepts: delicious, healthy and easy,” Sriboonruang said. “They explore the creative uses of simple and natural ingredients including nut milks, fruit, chia seeds, coconut, vegetables and much more to create both fun conventional style and artistic parfait style smoothies.
“When you eat living food, you feel more alive,” she added. “I get energy from eating raw foods because I get more nutrients and vitamins.”
As well as talking food and Muay Thai, I couldn't help but ask: Does she plan to hyphenate her name after she’s married?
Watt Sriboonruang-Kwiatkowski? Hmmmm.
“That would be a disaster,” she said. “A lot of my friends, when they found out we were engaged, asked, ‘What name are your going to use?’ They tried to combine our last names together and came up with 10 names and it was hilarious. One was Sribooski.”