This month a new retail food establishment, Nit Noi, opened at 3 Strickland Road in Cos Cob with a unique proposition: a broth-based menu with a Thai twist, plus a variety of hand-folded dumplings.
North and Jillian Shutsharawan, a husband and wife team who opened their first Nit Noi location in Norwalk in 2017, explained that Nit Noi means ‘a little bit,’ in Thai.
While many people think of broth as a building block for recipes, broth has become a new food category in itself, and Shutsharawans said their slow simmered broths are unlike anything store bought. They are both nourishing and filling.
The idea for a broth type business emerged during a trip North and Jillian took to Colorado.
“All the restaurants were chowder or chili,” North said. “Lots of meat and potatoes.”
“By that point brodo had become a big thing in the city,” Jillian said, adding that Chef Marco Canora had successfully established the concept at his East Village restaurant, Hearth, where he opened up a takeout window just for hot cups of broth.
“Our broth is different,” Jillian added. “Ours is Thai style, so we use different herbs and different types of bones. The production is completely different.”
“My mom has a great noodle soup recipe,” said North, who was born in Bangkok. His family moved to New York when he was six.They later moved to Norwalk, where he met Jillian in high school.
“This is what I grew up having on Sundays at brunch,” he said. “That’s how we came up with the serving meals with a broth base and a Thai slant.”
North said he and Jillian knew the people who started Fleishers Craft Butchery, and they became a source of good bones.
But there was a learning curve to selling broth, and the Shutsharawans received valuable feedback at local farmers markets. Starting in 2016 they participated in the Westport Farmers Market.
From there, the couple expanded to other farmers markets including the one in Rowayton and the Wednesday farmers market in Old Greenwich, before opening at 95 Water Street in Norwalk in 2017.
“It took a while to find a location in Greenwich,” Jillian said, adding that the kitchen is in South Norwalk.
“We’re slowly educating people so that broth becomes part of their daily habit,” North said. “The baby step is to come in and ask for the chicken noodle soup.”
“Then we introduced the Thai chicken noodle soup to show what you can do with this broth.”
“We know you’re probably not going to make a full Thai meal, but if you use our flavors – some broth, some garlic, some sauces – you can really elevate your cooking, and make it better,” he added.
“Cooks got it immediately,” North said. “They come in and just grab broths from the refrigerated cabinets.”
While many customers are unfamiliar with the broth concept, others use it on a regular basis.
“It’s a really versatile ingredient,” Jillian said. “A lot of people buy the broth and put it in ice cube trays to sauté vegetables with.”
“But we’ve expanded the broth bar, to include different drinks that we make with broth,” Jillian said. “There’s a turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger one that’s amazing. There’s a garlic cilantro scallion one that is savory and delicious, and one called Defense which is ginger and lime juice.”
They also offer their popular dumplings with broth or on their own. The dumpling varieties include pork, vegan or shrimp. They come with soy chili sauce, and can be ordered boiled, frozen or pan fried.
“We can make everything gluten-free and allergy free,” North said. “We can do paleo. And we have a big selection of vegan items. The only thing that’s not gluten-free are the dumplings, though there is a vegan dumpling.”
The Shutsharawans said they were surprised how many people were familiar with Thai food. But they break down their menu so it’s easy for everyone to understand.
Traditional Thai Dishes
Traditional Thai dishes start with GTG, short for Guay Teow Gai, which is rice noodle soup with baby bok choy, shredded chicken, bean sprouts, scallion and cilantro. You can order it hot or cold.
TKG, short for Tom Kha Gai, is coconut soup with chicken, shiitake mushrooms and a side of bone broth rice. Jillian said this is her favorite and mentioned there is a vegan option with tofu.
“It’s really flavorful. The tofu has a really good texture, and the pea shoots have some crunch. It’s really not boring vegan food” Jillian said.
They also offer Khao Mun Gai, or “KMG,” a traditional Thai dish of chicken, bone broth jasmine rice, English cucumber, ginger garlic sauce and a side of bone broth.
The last two traditional Thai choices are curries: Gaeng Keow Wan (green) and Gaeng Ped (red). Each comes with a side of rice.
The Broth Bar features choices of Pasture-Raised Chicken Bone Broth, Organic Vegetable Broth, and Pasture-Raised Beef Bone Broth.
The small size comes in a coffee cup. The large comes in a quart container. The large broths are fresh or frozen. Typically customers purchase them frozen and put them in their freezer.
Gluten-free options include “Defense” which is vegetable broth, poached ginger, pickled ginger and lime juice. “Restore” which has a vegan option features broth, scallions, cilantro, fried garlic, chili vinegar and Thai chili. “Revive,” which is vegan is vegetable broth, coconut milk, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger.
“The reception has been great,” North said. “Doing the Old Greenwich farmers market last summer was amazing. People have been really supportive.”
North and Jilian said they’d met several other local Jim from Fjord, Federico Perandin and Anissa Nouhi from Il Pastaficio, and Mike Pietrafeso from Roost, and all had welcomed them to Cos Cob’s hub.
North and Jillian also plan to start offering classes in April. They also hope to offer differ sets for families of four soon.
Their goal is to become a lunch focused business.
“I used to work in Greenwich,” North said. “My goal is for Greenwich people at their desks at their offices. We can deliver.”
All the menu items are on the Nit Noi website. People can order and pick up in Cos Cob. The Nit Noi packaging is paper based. There is minimal plastic.
“It’s travel friendly,” Jillian said. “If you’re taking it for dinner at home, the noodles and broth are in separate containers and you combine them yourselves at home.”