Dubai's popular Sticky Rice Thai restaurant to open first Abu Dhabi branch

Founder Amena 'Mama' Rakkuson, who died earlier this year due to Covid, always dreamt of setting up in the UAE capital

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - August 17, 2019: Seafood Soup - ÒTom Yum TalayÓ. Mother and son duo open Thai restaurant: Mohamed Abedin, Emirati, and his Thai mother, Amena Rakkuson. Saturday the 17th of August 2019. JVC, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Popular Dubai Thai restaurant Sticky Rice has announced it is opening its first branch in Abu Dhabi.

The family-run restaurant will open its doors at Yas Mall in early 2022, bringing its authentic Thai dishes to the UAE capital.

Announcing the news on Instagram, the restaurant said: “This is a love letter to all the beautiful people of Abu Dhabi who have been driving all the way down for years, and still manage to queue for an hour to sit and eat Mama’s food with us.

“The amount of love from all of you since day one is overwhelming and it’s time we returned the love in a big way.”

The restaurant in Jumeirah Village Circle, which has gained a loyal fan base in Dubai, has had a tumultuous year. In January, the rising number of Covid-19 cases across the city led owners to close its doors to ensure the safety of its staff and customers.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - August 17, 2019: Mother and son duo open Thai restaurant: Mohamed Abedin, Emirati, and his Thai mother, Amena Rakkuson. Saturday the 17th of August 2019. JVC, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A couple of weeks later, Sticky Rice announced the passing of owner Amena Rakkuson, lovingly known as “Mama” among patrons, who died due to coronavirus-related complications.

However, the restaurant was reopened in September by Rakkuson’s son, Mo Abedin, who co-owns Sticky Rice, with expanded space to cater for more customers.

The restaurant wrote on Instagram: “This was the last project Mama worked on for all of us. Her dreams started really small but as every day passed and she noticed there weren’t enough seats, customers who crammed in to eat her food would jokingly say, 'Your food is amazing! You should take over the shop next door, blow a hole in the wall and expand!'

"She would always laugh at the thought but one day she surprised us all and actually did it and said, 'Now there will be more place for everyone to sit and enjoy themselves comfortably.'"

The Sticky Rice story

Sticky Rice is a passion project set up by the mother-and-son duo. Abedin was born in Bangkok, and his Emirati father and Thai mother lived and worked there when he was a child, before they returned to the UAE some years later.

Abedin's mother fed Dubai’s Thai community for 20 years.

Rakkuson began working out of the family kitchen and delivered all over the city, sometimes driving up to six hours a day to feed people who craved a taste of Thailand. In a few years, she had 200 regular customers, who ordered everything from the spicy tom yum soup and pad Thai noodles, to other traditional dishes that take up to eight hours to make, she told The National in 2019.

Rakkuson, who made meals for her family from the age of 9, said it was always her dream to have her own restaurant.

Self-taught, she read everything she could get her hands on, and would go around the street markets of Bangkok, asking how things were made, often being shooed away by busy traders, but still learning about the ingredients and methodology for the craft that would become her calling.

Opening a branch in Abu Dhabi will be another of Mama’s dreams for Sticky Rice that will become a reality.

“This has always been a big dream of hers and we are proud to be able to make that happen,” the announcement post said. “Mama we’re going to Abu Dhabi!”

Updated: November 29, 2021, 10:47 AM