WANPHEN MCDONALD

Chef, Pangea Kitchen

Thailand is famous worldwide for its cuisine, which combines unique ingredients to create complex layers of flavor. But what is the soul of Thai food? “Respect” may be the best answer. The proud Thai people know well the importance of food in people’s lives, and in Thailand, food is medicine for the body and the spirit. The medicinal properties of the ingredients are always carefully considered when deciding on the dishes for a meal.

For example, lemongrass and turmeric (used in Pangea Kitchen's rotisserie lemongrass chicken) aid digestion, and wild ginger (used in Pangea Kitchen's Drunken Noodles). Is known to strengthen the immune system and metabolism. In addition to its medicinal benefits, Thai food is central to the culture and the community. This can be seen in the language, where Thais ask, "Gin khao ruuyang?" which means "Have you eaten yet?" In place of "How are you?" Respect for the food can also be seen in the precise care that is taken in every aspect, from preparations to presentation. Such care can be seen in the cut of the vegetables in our julienned salad, and the careful blend of palm sugar and pureed cilantro stems in our Thai shrimp taco marinate. So, the bulk of the soul of Thai food lies in the respect the culture has for its influence on our bodies and our well-being.

Regional variety is another hallmark of Thai food. More specifically, Thailand has four distinct regions: Northern, Northeastern, Central, and Southern, and each has its own unique style of cuisine, using ingredients and techniques specific to the area. To illustrate, the recipe for the red curry in Pangea Kitchen's lemongrass red curry chicken wrap is a Central region specialty and has been preserved in the elite Royal Thai Culinary Art College, where I graduated, and our spicy beef lettuce wraps are a staple of northeastern cuisine. Taken together, the full menu of Thai food is one of almost endless variety.

 

Growing up in Thailand, Chef Wanphen saw first-hand the respect and care that goes into preparation of Thai dishes.