In this issue of In the Kitchen, we catch up with Chef Tang from Pak Pak.
That’s pretty easy, actually. I grew up in Shandong, and when I left school at age 16 I needed something to do—a trade. Cooking appealed to me because it was simple, and you didn’t necessarily need skills to start out, as long as you listened and worked hard. I had relatives in Beijing, and they introduced me to restaurants here. I started out at a normal Chinese-food restaurant but the competition to be a great Chinese food chef is very high.
Back then, Thai food wasn’t as common or popular, and another relative of mine had a Thai restaurant here. That interested me, and I started working there, and learning more about the cuisine. I met Amy [Li, owner of Pak Pak and Susu] and we started Tuk Tuk Thai. We’ve been working together ever since.
Most of my favorite dishes are from southern or central Thailand. I think the flavors are more subtle, such as in the case of tom yum soup. I also think that the culinary styles of the south are more developed, which makes it easier for us chefs working internationally to adapt flavors to local tastes.
Thai cooking uses Thai bird chilies, which are both tiny and very spicy. I’d say that their spice is much brighter than similar Chinese chilies, many of which are milder in flavor. I’ll use them sometimes to adjust the hotness level—I won’t change the overall taste of a dish, but will decrease the level of spice.
Taste it for yourself at Pak Pak.
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