Thai food has exploded in popularity in the United States, and this series will explore not only the dishes, ingredients, and techniques of Thai cuisine, but the stories of the chefs and family-owned restaurants whose hard work and creativity have made Thai food in America what it is today. Hosted by food blogger and culinary guide Brian Hoffman, this interactive virtual program series features live interviews and cooking demonstrations with chefs from across the country, who will explore such topics as the history of Thai food’s spread across the globe, the distinctive regional cuisines of Thailand, and emerging trends in Thai cooking. Below you can find links to join upcoming programs, watch past programs, and try out the participating chefs’ recipes.
Episode 1: Gastrodiplomacy and the Rise of Thai Cuisine in America
How did Thai cuisine become so popular in the United States and across the world? Join us for this live virtual program to learn how Thailand has used “soft power” to raise awareness of its food and culture and transform the country into a prime culinary tourism destination and a leading exporter of food related products. We will meet the owners and chefs of two of the oldest and top-rated Thai restaurants in the United States. Chef Nongkran Daks from Chantilly, Virginia’s Thai Basil and Chef Chai Siriyan from San Francisco’s Marnee Thai will share their stories, discuss how awareness of Thai cuisine in America has changed in the last 20 years, and prepare a special and personal dish with us, including the iconic Pad Thai and the regional specialty Kang Kai Kole (southern yellow chicken curry).
Episode 2: Cooking Thai Food for New (and Familiar) Audiences
Learn about the history of Thai immigration to the United States and where Thai communities and Thai food destinations have popped up across the country. Some restaurants have appeared in neighborhoods to serve the Thai community – places like Elmhurst, Queens and Los Angeles’ Thai Town – while other restaurants have set up shop where very few Thai people live, taking on the challenge of educating diners about their cuisine. Join us for interviews and a cooking demonstration with Chef Sarintip “Jazz” Singsanong, who cooks spicy Southern Thai cuisine at Jitlada in the heart of LA’s Thai Town, and Chef Dee Buizer, who prepares upscale Thai food for an eager new audience at Senae Thai Bistro in Tucson, Arizona.
Episode 3: Cooking Thai Regional Dishes: North and South
Chefs at Thai restaurants across the United States are inspired by the geography, climate, and ingredients from their native towns and regions, from the cool valleys and mountains of Northern Thailand to the tropical seas of the South. This virtual program will welcome chefs who are originally from both the South and North of Thailand and will explore the similarities and differences between these two regional cuisines. We will be joined by Chef Patty Neumson from Chicago’s renowned restaurant Herb, who will cook a dish that is typical to Southern Thailand where she learned to cook with her mother and grandmother. We’ll also go live to Manhattan’s A Plus Thai Place, where Chefs Sanun Nakapat and Aura Piyada have introduced New Yorkers to Sukothai Noodles, a popular dish from their hometown in Northern Thailand. Meet these three amazing chefs, learn about Thai regional flavors and ingredients, and see them cook some of their favorite dishes.
Episode 4: Cooking with Thai Ingredients
The core of Thai cuisine is selecting ingredients that balance flavors – sweet, spicy, sour, and salty. Thanks to the growth in popularity of Thai food in the United States, many staple ingredients are readily available, either imported from Thailand or produced locally. On this program we’ll learn from top chefs about how they obtain the best ingredients for Thai cooking, and we’ll explore the international and domestic supply chains that support Thai chefs and home cooks alike. Our guest will be Chef Terrawong “Yo” Nanthavatsiri from New York City’s Pinto Garden, who sources local, seasonal ingredients to create his innovative takes on traditional dishes, and he will show us how to make a delicious and refreshing seasonal salad.
Episode 5: Cooking Thai Regional Dishes: Northeastern
Many Americans have some familiarity with certain Thai dishes, but the distinct cuisine from Isan or the Northeast region of Thailand is not as well known. In this mouthwatering program, we will focus on this region’s culinary traditions to learn about what makes it unique and the dishes to look out for. Bright spicy and sour salads, grilled meats, sticky rice, and lots of chili peppers are just some of the building blocks of Isan cuisine, and we are excited to feature two chefs from the region. We will learn about the famous Som Tam (or papaya salad) from Chef Kulsatree Noree, who owns Amazing Thailand in Minneapolis, and we will pay a visit to Chef Warunee Mouthapong, who owns Miami’s Siam Bistro and will be preparing spicy salad made of curried rice – as a special treat, Chef Warunee will be joining us directly from Thailand!
Episode 6: The Future of Thai Cuisine
For our final episode of this series, we will meet two chefs who are using the traditions of Thai cuisine as a springboard for culinary innovation. On the West Coast (with locations in San Francisco, Oakland, and Portland), Chef Kasem “Pop” Saengsawang has built his Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine concept, where he creates new dishes based off of his childhood growing up in Thailand’s Northeast. And from Brooklyn, Chef Suchanan Aksornnan (aka Chef Bao Bao) brings her fine dining background to create Thai fusion in a relaxed approachable setting at Baoburg. These chefs represent a new generation that is exploring exciting new possibilities in Thai cuisine, and we’ll discuss with them what they see for the future of Thai cuisine in America and across the world.
Header photo by Lawrence Daks and Harold Burns