But why tamper with Thai food, which is perfect as is? What makes a difference in this case is that the innovator is thoroughly Thai, born into the royal family and a celebrity chef. In other words, he knows his stuff from the ground up.
He's Chef McDang (that's a nom de cuisine. His real name is ML Sirichalerm Svasti). And traditional Thai food is what he lectures on when Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs sends him on an annual tour of Le Cordon Bleu culinary schools in the United States.
This year, Chef McDang gave public lectures for the first time. Anyone who really listened to what he said at Thailand Plaza Restaurant in Hollywood should now be able to cook Thai without a recipe. That's how organized and complete his presentation was.
But the dishes he demonstrated showed his new idea, which is to present Thai food in courses--"like French food," he said, not in communal plates and without rice.
This breaks with Thai custom, which is to eat together, sharing dishes that are served all at once. And rice is so fundamental that to find out if someone has eaten, you ask, "have you eaten rice?"
In traditional Thai cookery, only flavorless oil is used, never "smelly" oils, he had said. He topped the timbale with coconut cream and flying fish roe and scattered over the plate finely diced red, green and yellow sweet peppers.
Even more olive oil went over tuna carpaccio with larb dressing (at top), and micro greens joined typical larb additions such as green onions, shallots, sawtooth herb and mint leaves.
What all this is leading up to is a book, "Modern Thai Cuisine," due out when Chef McDang has time to finish it.
His prior book, "The Principles of Thai Cookery," is based on his Cordon Bleu lectures. The chef published that book himself, because he's so dedicated to helping people get it right.
200 grams (about 1/2 pound) ripe mango meat, peeled and diced small
100 grams (about 1/4 pound) tomato, peeled, seeded and diced small
100 grams (about 1/4 pound) onion, peeled and diced small
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Thai chiles
Granulated or brown sugar to taste
Mix the mango, tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice, fish sauce and chiles in a bowl. Taste and add sugar so that the salsa is equally balanced between sweet, sour and saltiness.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.