Another great interview from EatDrinkJax.com with chef and owner Guy Boonsanong of Buddha Thai Bistro.
1. Tell us about Buddha Thai Bistro.
Buddha Thai Bistro is a Thai restaurant owned by me, Guy Boonsanong. I was born and raised in Thailand and I also lived in L.A. for a while. My mother owns a few Thai restaurants in L.A. and I grew up in the restaurant business. I was in Jacksonville for about 7 years before opening the restaurant in March of 2010.
2. What's your overall concept for Buddha Thai Bistro?
Our concept is to be a family owned restaurant serving home cooked Thai meals in a truly authentic style. We want the family approach to be how we treat our employees and our customers. My mother is back and forth from L.A. She is like the head chef, controlling the kitchen and the menu and making sure everything is the way it's supposed to be.
3. How would you describe Thai food, and what makes for authentic Thai food?
Thai food is all about fresh, healthy, flavorful food. We use a lot of herbs. In fact, I'm the one who goes to the farmer's market every week to pick out the freshest herbs I can find. Thai food has complex flavors. We have a word in Thai - "Yum" - which means the 4 flavors of sweet, salty, sour and spicy, all combined into one bite. Thai meals are usually served in a single dish. We don't have a main protein with separate sides. Instead, we combine everything into one dish, which we eat with rice.
4. Are there regional styles in Thai cooking?
Yes, absolutely! There are 4 main styles that come from the north of Thailand, the north east, the south and then the middle area of Thailand. We represent all styles in our menu.
5. You serve a lot of vegan dishes. Is that reflective of Thai cuisine?
Vegan dishes are really popular in Thailand. There's a vegan holiday called Kin Jay in Thailand that runs for 9 days straight. The whole country celebrates with lots of vegan food served. In many southern parts of Thailand everyone stops eating meat and it isn't even served. If you are a tourist and arrived during the holiday you'd be surprised that you couldn't find meat.
The vegan aspect is also part of the Thai culture and something I grew up with. In Thailand we aren't as focused on meat and use it more to flavor a dish. So we do offer a lot of vegan dishes at the restaurant. It's something that's easy for us because we grew up with it and it's part of the way we're used to eating.
Vegan dishes are becoming a lot more popular here in Jacksonville Beach and we get a lot of people who enjoy vegan dishes coming in. We can make about 70% of our dishes vegan if people want it that way because we make everything fresh for each order. We don't prepare our meals in advance. That means we can substitute almost anything someone wants.