This month’s pop-up menu was co-curated with one of the OGs in the local food truck scene: our braddah, Pai Pongsupaht. Pai and I both grew up in Hawai’i, first crossed paths in Asian American studies classes at the University of Washington, cruised at Ohana in Belltown many a night, and eventually started cooking for each other when a bunch of us ex-Hawaii residents started the Kama’aina dinners.
In 2010, he opened Pai’s Food Truck, serving the Thai and Hawaiian dishes that he became known for over the years he cooked for the community—whether by catering our kids’ birthday parties or feeding a bunch of youth as a mentor with The Service Board.
At the time, Pai’s was only one of 12 food trucks in the entire city of Seattle. In 2012, after a successful 3 year run, Pai sold the truck and returned to Thailand to immerse back in the country he left as a child and to spend more time with family. Today, Seattle’s food truck scene is popping off and owes much to the folks like Pai who laid the groundwork.
So when we heard a couple months ago that Pai was going to be back in town visiting, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. It’s only fitting, as he’s influenced not just the Food & Sh*t pop-up, but many others who have transitioned from cooking for family and friends to cooking for a community.
AROI / SARAP
The words “aroi” and “sarap” are cousins. They both mean “flavorful” in Thai and Tagalog, respectively. Both languages borrow many words from Sanskrit, and both words likely derive from the Sanskrit word for flavorful, or delicious: सुरस, “surasa” (In Laos “saep,” In Indonesia and Malaysia “sedap”).
Over homecooked meals and drinks last week, distracting ourselves from the pain of Super Bowl XLIX, we thought of Thai and Filipino cuisine as cousins. We thought about how Hawaii already laid out a blueprint for various food traditions to meet on one plate. We pinpointed the many similarities that tropical Thai and Filipino cooking shares: rice (of course), fermented seafood products, lots of citrus acid, banana leaves, coconut milk. Both cuisines carry many pre-Western contact influences from China and India. There were also distinctions: Thai food is all about that spicy kick—chiles are a main cooking ingredient; Filipino food is rarely spicy, and, if so, is usually only made so through condiments.
So we went back to what was most familiar to both of us, and tweaked a few ingredients. We came up with a menu that we hope exemplifies the idea that our food has always evolved through exchanges with one another—that “fusion” may be a buzzword to some, but to us it’s just how we’ve always done it. One person shares a recipe, the other shares a recipe, both try something new with something they’ve done many times before. And no matter how much time has passed or how many miles separate us, food can both bring us back to where we started, and tell us where we’re going, much like languages themselves.
Green Papaya Bagoong Salad
Pork Belly & Monggo Sticky Rice
Mochiko Fried Chicken & Calamansi Chili Sauce
Curry Oxtail Kare Kare
Kluay Kaek w/ Crème fraîche
AROI/SARAP is a prix-fixe pop-up tasting menu dinner. Reservations and advance payment required. There will be two dinner services, from 500-700pm and 800-1000pm. All ages welcome, with bar & alcoholic drinks available for 21+. Seating limited to 45 per dinner. Please make reservations at the link below: