If you follow any cooks and chefs whatsoever, you probably have heard the name Paula Deen. She is a Savannah, Georgia, caterer turned restaurateur turned cooking show host. She has had several shows in fact, including Paula’s Home Cooking and Paula’s Party.
The initial appeal of Deen was her rags to riches story. After her husband left her, she started a catering business in Savannah for $200 that primarily sold sack-lunches. They were so popular that she saved up enough money to open a restaurant in early 1990 before landing her own homestyle cooking show.
But just because Deen is the queen of Southern cooking and anti-chef of the Food Network (being self-taught), that doesn’t mean she eats fried food daily. In fact, although she believes in doing what you know, there is one cuisine she always wanted to learn.
“I always had a hankering to be taught Asian cooking and learn Thai food,” said Deen to The Sacramento Bee. “My husband and I love it, but we go out to eat for that.”
Alan Wong, general manager of Kung Fu Plaza in Las Vegas, was happy to hear it. Although Deen also said she doesn’t get too far from her roots, Wong said she should come to Las Vegas and learn how to cook Thai fried chicken wings.
“Our chef would love to teach Paula how to cook Thai fried chicken wings, which would not be too far from her roots at all,” said Wong. “Maybe she could teach him how to cook Southern-style fried chicken in return.”
Wong noted that the biggest difference Deen would see is that Thai cuisine seldom uses white meat. The Thai people, he says, prefers the juicer dark meat. That, of course, and the real challenge for anyone cooking Thai food is having enough heat to bind the ingredients correctly.
“Thai people consider duck a bigger staple than chicken, but some dishes like Thai fried chicken have really taken off,” said Wong. “The batter reminds many people of Southern friend chicken, especially because it is thick and crunchy, not at all like buffalo wings. We also use different ingredients than Southern chefs do in order to achieve a Thai flavor.”
Wong says the recipe is not as old as many of the traditional dishes that his family has gathered together from Thailand. It is, however, a very popular dish. In fact, it is one of the favorites of Roger Mayweather. He orders it any time he stops in Las Vegas.
“I also know what she means about people thinking that everything about Southern cooking is fried, even if it is not,” said Wong. “Everybody thinks Thai food is all about stir-fried recipes with heavy spices. It’s not. Every day, we help patrons explore new Chinese and Thai dishes so that they develop a deeper appreciation for authentic cuisine. Paula might also be surprised at some other dishes, which would fit well with her new lighter cooking style.”
Founded in 1973, Kung Fu Plaza serves the most authentic Chinese and Thai cuisine of all Las Vegas restaurants. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The average entree is under $10 and most patrons order family style.