From Catwalk to Kitchen, Chef Hong Thaimee Shares Burger Recipe
Chef Hong Thaimee has made it her goal to share traditional Thai dishes with a modern twist to a wider audience. "It's such an honor to be a chef and to have people come and taste my food," said Hong.Evan Sung
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Hong Thaimee's life almost took a very different direction.
Discovered in her 20's by a modeling scout in her native Thailand, Thaimee built her first career on her beauty, modeling in shampoo and coffee commercials.
“Back then, I did not feel that it was a path I wanted to be on,” said Thaimee. “Modeling wasn’t for me.”
The transition from model to chef came by way of yet another career -- this time after earning an MBA and working for global pharmaceutical company Merck. Still, Thaimee felt, she lacked passion for her work.
A self-funded, soul-searching trip around the world brought her back to the place she started -- enthralled by the Thai recipes of her childhood and a passion to introduce them to others. After stints at famed Chef Jean-Jorges Vongerichten's restaurant, Spice Market, and the Mandarin Oriental in Chiang Mai, Chef Hong launched her own restaurant - Ngam - in New York's East Village, with a softer approach than most head chefs might have.
“I smile more than I yell. It adds soulfulness to my cooking that wouldn’t otherwise be there.”
Below, Chef Hong shares a summertime favorite, her Thai Burger recipe.
My memories of the kitchen are always colored by my grandmother, who was an amazing cook and who taught me to love and appreciate Thai ingredients. Throughout my youth, she showed me time-honored techniques that I use to this day in my kitchen at Ngam. She also encouraged me to be creative and take chances, and it is with this mentality that I moved from Thailand to cook in the US and bring a piece of Thailand with me. Though I love the more well-known cuisine of Thailand, I am also inspired by my surroundings and love to put a spin on traditional dishes!
The recipe here is a Thai twist on the traditional burger, and it has grown to become a signature favorite at Ngam. This recipe sums up my cooking philosophy perfectly, as it boasts some of my favorite Thai ingredients, in a form that Americans know and love. The “Sai Oor” Thai Burger is based on the flavors of Chiang Mai sausage, mixed with Sai Oor curry paste and topped with house-made cilantro-lime mayonnaise, and green papaya kraut. Like any burger, this pairs perfectly with a cold brew, and for me, I love the popular Thai beer, Singha, to enjoy alongside it.