Saturday, October 12, 2013
Q-and-A: PakPao Thai chef explains the DIY dish called Suki
Suki is Thailand's version of cooking meat and veggies in hot broth.
DALLAS The concept itself is not an unfamiliar one to anyone familiar with the myriad cuisines Asia has to offer; Japan has Shabu-Shabu, and China has the hot pot. But with the additions of flavors that make Thai food unique among that of its neighbors, Suki (Thai Sukiyaki for the more formal) is the communal, self-cooking, broth-and-meat-and-vegetable experience that families across Thailand are so accustomed to. And at PakPao Thai, Chef Eddy Thretipthuangsin is bringing the experience to the Design District every Sunday. We chatted with Eddy to find out a little bit more about what exactly Suki is, how to go about the ordering and dining process, and what it means when a fish ball floats to the top.
Entree Dallas: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Eddy. To start, what exactly is Suki?
Eddy Thretipthuangsin: The basic idea behind the concept is that you have different flavors of broth, and then you have a raw product that you cook right there at the table in the broth. It’s what we call Suki in Thailand, but the Japanese version of it is Shabu-Shabu, the Chinese version is a hot pot. The concept is the same, but with different ingredients and different sauces. But whether it’s Chinese, Thai, Japanese – it’s a family event or a gathering of friends. It’s a fun event.
Suki is funny because the full name in Thai is sukiyaki. It’s actually a Japanese name, but when Thai people hear sukiyaki, they think of this meal. When Japanese people hear it, they think of a stir-fry dish. It’s the same name, but two different meals. The name is Japanese, but the flavor profile is heavily influenced by Chinese hot pots – it’s been adapted to Thai flavors.
So how does the process for Thai Suki work, specifically?
It’s just a hot, hot broth; you’ve got meats, fish balls, vegetables, and you cook it in the hot broth. Each person gets their own little basket – you drop the food in the broth, watch it to make sure no one else at the table steals your food! It’s like, “Oh! What happened to my shrimp? He got it! (laughs)”
The setting you have for traditional suki is the broth, then you have mung bean noodles and Chinese celery, and then you pick your own choice of protein – whichever meat or seafood. Then you cook your noodles, meat, and eat them with the dipping sauce and then you treat the leftover broth as a soup.Because by the time you’ve cooked all the proteins and things in there, that broth is going to be super, super flavorful. You’re cooking all that stuff in there. It’s a chicken broth to start out with. The other is a spicy one with lemongrass, kaffir and all that.
So do people catch on to the idea pretty quickly?
Well, Suki is something new – here in Dallas, at least. It’s a concept that’s more popular in the Asian community, which is why hot pot restaurants are usually centrally located in areas with a larger Asian population. This is really the first time for us to take that step and bring it to the forefront. Obviously, it’s going to be a whole educational process for our team to explain it to our customers. For instance, with certain products, the cooking time is different; say you order a fish ball – it’s already cooked, so you just need to heat it up. Just drop it in the broth, and if it’s ready, it will float up to the top – that’s an easy one to identify. Then let’s say we have beef; we slice it really thin, and the idea for me is that you really just drop it in, and then count to three and it’s done! Chicken, though, you want to cook all the way through. Put it in right at the get-go and cook it all the way through. But for the most part, most of the ingredients require no more than 30 or 45 seconds of cook time. Other than that, there’s no wrong way to eat it.
What makes suki a Thai dish – what flavors set it apart from the other hot pot-style meals you’ve mentioned?
When you talk about thai cuisine, the main ingredients for the cuisine involve birds-eye chilies, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galanga. Obviously, we incorporate all those flavors.
So say we’ve got 15 people and we’re looking for a place to eat on a Sunday – would it work for a group that large?
They way our menu is set up is that you can come in and accommodate any size party. You can get the setup per person, which is the broth, the sauces, the mung bean noodles and the salad. That’s the standard setup for all suki. Then you and your friends pick whatever protein and vegetables you’d like: mushrooms, baby bok choi, beef, shrimp, chicken, squid, things like that.
So it’s pretty much whatever you choose?
Just mix and match. The fun thing is, you’ll start out with something – it’s like dim sum; if you need more, you just order more!
Thanks for the time, Chef. Just another reason to look forward to the weekend, right?
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