It was hardly a shocker when Nongkran Daks’s pad Thai beat celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s in a 2009 televised throwdown. The spirited owner of Thai Basil in Chantilly began cooking 68 years ago and has mastered a world-class repertoire of her native dishes.
A fine example is laab kai, the ubiquitous appetizer-salad whose name is often modified as “larb gai.” It seems simple enough to re-create without a recipe, with its spikes of lime juice, fish sauce and dried chili pepper in evidence among ground meat crumbles.
But Daks reveals the make-or-break ingredient in her cooking classes: toasted rice powder, which lends texture and aromatics. Follow her lead, and you’ll have enough left over to make the dish again.
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