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After almost fifty years of Thai dining experiences from street carts, woks on open fires in the jungle and fine Thai restaurants, the author considers himself a reasonable expert on Thai food. In the early beginning of that period, there was virtually no "Thai fine dining" as fancy dinners were always around a "Lazy-Susan" table piled with mountains of greasy Chinese food. The world has evolved since then with new twists added to traditional Thai cooking. I am not talking about Thai fusion which I find abhorrent but greater usage of traditional vegetables and healthier seafood to replace my former early steady diet of stir-fried beef, probably water buffalo, and chili peppers.

We were recently up in The Golden Triangle of Thailand where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar join and went to see our old friend, Khun Taksanai, who has a push cart restaurant in Chiang Saen on the river. Khun Tak was formerly the Food and Beverage manager of the Four Seasons Tented Camp and a fellow elephant polo player. Once in Bangkok for an elephant polo tournament, I took Khun Tak around to visit some of my favorite restaurants. We went to Silom Village to have Tom Yam Kung -- a spicy shrimp soup. Tak thought it was the best he had ever had-the secret was the limitless source of seafood stock in a largely fish, shrimp, and crustacean open air restaurant.

Khun Tak has taken that secret to the highest level and now creates what the author considers the best Tom Yam Kung in the world.

You can find Khun Tak and his wife, Khun Aom, every afternoon and evening across from the night market in Chiang Saen. Make a booking or you will have a wait.

Below is what you will want to eat in addition to a host of other wonderful dishes.

If you go a few stands further, you will find Khun Poy's Rueng Poy cart with fresh water shrimp specialties. She is shown here with Khun Taweesak, Khun Wee, a close friend and elephant polo player. Anytime you need details on how to find the push cart locations or Khun Wee, the best guide in The Golden Triangle, just contact us at The Elephant Story.

Now, we will move to our Southeast Asia home, The Siam Hotel, in Bangkok. Executive Chef Damri, shown below, has propelled Thai fine dining to a new place in the universe. The dishes still have their traditional Thai roots but the nuances he adds are transformational. You should know the author has had numerous Thai cooking classes from some of the most famous Thai chefs.

However, Chef Damri has taken the art to a new level with flowers prepared in tempura batter, hill tribe curries that will blow your socks off and tasty wok fried vegetables that are exceptional. Unlike my former days in Mongolia, where a vegetarian would starve to death, there is an entire new veggie world in Thailand. One of my favorites is tempura fried dok cochon, a small flower, as shown below.

When Chef Damri heard that I considered Khun Tak's Tom Yam Kung to be the best in the world, he asked for an Iron Chef Challenge and presented his version. Well, it was incredible but different and the net result is that Khun Tak and Chef Damri are the "Two Top Thai Chefs."

By the way, we have known all of the people mentioned herein for the past ten years as they worked at The Four Seasons Tented Camp. Moreover, you will notice, all of these meals occur on a river bank.

Lastly, click on the video to meet Chef Damri in his special live cooking environment at The Siam Hotel.



Asian Cook Books

South-East Asian Soups
Greater Mekong: A Culinary Journey from China to Vietnam



Little Vietnam Cookbook
An Illustrated Guide to Asian Cooking



The Banh Mi Handbook
Classic Recipes of Thailand


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