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Larb Gai Guy

September 10, 1997

Oh, boy, my first press party! It was the Friday before last weekend's Thai Food Festival, held at the Pacific Design Center, and I was expecting to see Thai dancing, eat Thai food and, all in all, experience a bit of Thai culture. And I did, pretty much.

I also experienced a whole lot of Tommy Tang, the host of the evening and one of the coordinators of the festival. As I entered the Pacific Design Center, the first thing I saw was an episode from his PBS cooking show on a TV monitor. I'd never seen his show (having learned Thai cooking at my mother's knee), so I watched for a bit, fascinated by his buoyant personality and wild attire.

Toward the center of the room was the man himself, moving from conversation to conversation, his purple-scarved head standing out in the crowd. This was a guy who definitely knew how to work a room.

So he was charming and a snappy dresser. More important, could he cook?

I circled the room and grabbed a few appetizers to sample. I tasted a vegetable spring roll, spicy won tons, mee krob and chicken satay. No complaints. But what I was really looking for was something truly representative of the complex flavors of Thai food. In other words, something you don't usually get in Thai restaurants around here.

Finally I spotted a dish at the other end of the room. It was larb gai, a salad of ground chicken flavored with fish sauce, chiles and onions. It was fantastic--just like Mom's, in fact.

Oh, yeah, there was entertainment at the party too, a range of regional Thai dancing as well as a short performance of a Thai opera. But only a selection. I was looking forward to seeing more of the opera, but that would have to wait for the weekend.

So after watching a video of Thailand (hosted by none other than Tommy Tang), I was out of there.


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