At yesterday’s Twelve Days of Christmas at the Restaurant at Meadowood’s panel discussion at the CIA Greystone campus with chef Andy Ricker, Ricker referred to himself as a “food hack.” (I will be moderating three more panel discussion with this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas guest chefs. They’re free and I encourage you to attend.)
Ricker, who is chef and owner of seven Thai cuisine-inspired restaurants (four in Portland: pok pok, pok pok noi, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and Sen Yai Noodles; and three in New York : pok pok, pok pok phat thai, and Sen Yai Noodles) avoids using the term “authenticity,” especially when it comes to the food that he cooks.
Instead, he tries to recreate the feel and flavors of the cookery he has experienced in Thailand – hacking into a different culture, and extracting its essence. As an illustration: at yesterday’s panel discussion, Ricker explained to the audience that some Thai ingredients aren’t available in the United States, including a special fermented shrimp paste. Using Korean fermented shrimp, which is available in the United States, he was able to reproduce, with what he believes to be a high degree of likeness, the flavor and semblance of the Thai shrimp paste. (The recipe is in his new cookbook “Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand,” which just hit the New York Times Bestseller list this week.)