Just because I’ve written a book that touches on Singaporean food, people tend to assume I am an expert on all cuisines Southeast Asian.
In New York, this means I sometimes get asked: Have you been to Sri Pra Phai?
There’s always a look of disbelief when I say, Well, no.
Understandably so, perhaps. Not only have New Yorkers been raving about the cheap Thai place all over Chowhound and Yelp for years — but New Yorker magazine has also weighed in with a review sprinkled with words like “revelatory” and “superb.”
Recently, I decided enough was enough. Time to fix this once and for all. And so when my trusty food guide, Chef Simpson suggested heading to Queens for a Sri Pra Phai fix one evening, I was only too happy to oblige …
The thing I adore about traveling is discovering a terrific restaurant — a place with dishes so delicious that just the memory of them, even months later, gets you instantly salivating.
Of course, the downside to this is your immense sadness over the fact that you won’t be able to sample those flavors until you travel back there again.
Which is why I just about had a fit when I heard that Portland, Ore., chef Andy Ricker was opening Pok Pok NY in Brooklyn.
Now, I had the great fortune of dining at Pok Pok in Portland not once but twice last year thanks to my book travels — Ricker’s Thai and Southeast Asian noodle dishes tantalized; his intensely flavorful crispy fried chicken wings were seared in my memory. Each time I left I found myself wishing he had a branch in New York.
When a nationally respected critic declares in only the most revered food magazine in American history that a restaurant is the "single best Thai restaurant in the country," it's hard not to sit up and pay attention.
The excitement and the buzz has been palpable since its early November opening, naturally. So the first chance we got, the lovely and insatiable Gael Greene and I were making plans to meet there for dinner.
Would it live up to the hype? We were eager to find out…
If one does have to work over a holiday weekend, this is not a bad way to do it: Eating and, well, talking about eating.
On Labor Day, at the Asian Feastival in Queens, I had the privilege of spending a lovely hour on a panel with New York chef and restaurateur Andy Yang (of Rhong-Tiam Express, a tiny Thai takeout place that he opened after closing his one Michelin-star restaurant Rhong-Tiam in January) and Kian Lam Kho, a private chef and caterer who blogs about Chinese home cooking at Red Cook. The food festival, which included tasting booths and cooking demonstrations by experts such as the effervescent blogger Maangchi, was designed to showcase Asian food from all regions.
Outside our cozy conference room, the booths and cooking displays meandered through Taiwan, Korea, China, the Philippines. Inside, however, our panel had a specific angle: Deconstructing Southeast Asian Flavors.
While I had felt that I had already learned a lot in the year I spent traveling to my native Singapore to learn to cook for my upcoming memoir, A Tiger In The Kitchen, I ended up picking up a few handy tips from our lively discussion …