Interview with Coco Asian's Owner and Chef, Mike Ponluang, Part Two
Clean Plate Charlie: You're from Thailand, but your cuisine has other Asian influences, as well. Tell us about your style of cooking.
Chef Mike Ponluang: I've been learning about Thai food even before I was a teenager, bu as I got older I learned about other influences, including French. I do fusion pan-Asian cuisine. I use Thai flavors with European techniques of cooking. For example, in Thailand they never sear any scallop, they stir-fry with sauce. I like to sear the scallops. Back when I was in Thailand there was no Thailand cooking school. Everyone learned from their family. But now there are a lot of cooking schools, so people go to school and learn what to cook.
What did you learn to cook from your family that you haven't changed? That you still cook traditionally?
The traditional dish that I learned from mom is noodle soup. That's why I opened Mama Asian noodle - because I wanted to introduce Asian noodles into the market.
Do you think tastes have gotten more sophisticated in South Florida over the years? Are eaters more adventurous?
When I arrived in south Florida in 1980 there were about four or five Thai restaurants. Now there are over 60 maybe more, so people do learn to appreciated new flavors and their palates are changing. Thai food is very tasty with stronger flavors than Japanese or Chinese. What I'm cooking right now is very Thai in flavor, but the look is not like traditional Thai. My food looks different on the plate. The presentation is different. More modern looking and more streamlined. I think that the people are learning now about the taste of Asian food.
I'm coming into your restaurant for the first time. What would you cook for me to introduce me to your food?
I would ask what protein you prefer. If you prefer fish, I might do a pan-fried snapper with roasted almonds, topped with pineapple curry sauce. It's very tasty, its creamy and the pineapple taste is sweet.
That sounds amazing. You're doing a special fundraiser at Coco Asian for your anniversary. Can you tell us about it?
For our first and second anniversaries, we invited our customers to enjoy a free meal, as a thank you. For our third anniversary, we decided to incorporate a fundraising component to help people in Thailand that were affected by the Tsunami. On June 4th from 11:30am - 4:00pm, we're inviting our customers to enjoy an all you can eat buffet, which includes an open bar, for $20. All proceeds - every dollar - goes to help tsunami victims in Thailand.
Are reservations required?
We'd like people to reserve in advance so we can have an idea of how much we need to cook, but we always welcome everyone.
Stay tuned for a recipe from Chef Mike, coming soon.