Thai restaurant balances flavors for success
In the kitchen of Satay, a 26-year-old Thai restaurant at 3202 W. Anderson Lane, Ste. 205, customers can still find owner Rommanee Swasdee behind a stove, wok in hand. Swasdee, who goes by Foo, said it is the act of creating that has bolstered her passion for the restaurant and food industry.
"Because of my background being a food scientist, in the back of my brain, I don't only make a dish to have the best quality and taste good," Foo said. "It's a combination of flavor, color, texture [and] taste. The whole profile has to go together."
Foo, who has a doctorate in food science and nutrition, started Satay in 1987 when she moved back to Texas to market the sauces she made. She said Thai food was an unknown cuisine in Central Texas, and she used the restaurant to highlight the food. From there, her culinary efforts grew to include making sauces sold at stores including Whole Foods Market, hosting cooking classes and starting other restaurants.
Foo said what makes Thai food and Satay unique is that the cuisine is a "melting pot" of various food styles from throughout Southeast Asia. She also uses ingredients grown organically in her home garden.
"The cuisine in Thailand is very different," Foo said. "Beside being the melting pot of all that, we combine a unique flavor profile that covers salty to sweet to sour to spicy to fresh to seafood to meat to vegetables. So it's like the flavor of everything all in one."
Betty Alex, a gluten-intolerant customer from Terlingua, said she "was delighted that [she] could have a real meal that was wonderful and a real choice of different things."
After the downturn in the economy and health concerns caused Foo to close her other restaurants and scale back her commercial sauce business, Foo said she has refocused her attention on her flagship restaurant. She said she sees many possibilities for the future, including finishing a cookbook and opening additional Satay locations.
Satay owner Rommanee Swasdee said Thai cuisine is a combination of various styles and cultures from throughout the Southeast Asia that are melded together. To make good Thai food, she said it is important to balance all the different flavor profiles, including hot, sour, sweet, salty and bitter, in each dish.
Kerza Prewitt, a regular customer at Satay, said the restaurant's cuisine consistently achieves that balance.
"You have to have all of those five tastes, and they have to be in balance," Prewitt said. "That's what makes really good Thai food, and that's one of the things Foo does with her recipes very, very well."
Swasdee said some of the popular dishes at Satay include:
Satay dumplings—Steamed dumplings filled with chicken or vegetables covered in a spicy peanut sauce
Phuket wonder—A hot, sweet and spicy stir-fry with Thai chili oil, Thai peppers and garlic
Pud ped ga-prao—Thai-style stir fry with Thai holy basil, chili peppers, onions and mushrooms
Pad thai—Rice noodles stir-fried with cabbage, bean sprouts and pickled radishes and topped with ground peanuts, green onion and cilantro
Thai chocolate silk pie—A vegan chocolate pie
Rommanee Swasdee, who goes by the name Foo and owns Satay, said she enjoys sharing her knowledge and expertise in Thai cooking through the classes she teaches in her restaurant's banquet room. Foo said each class has a maximum of 30 participants, and information about classes is posted online.
"Beside creating, I love teaching," Foo said.
Foo said she often creates recipes that she teaches to participants in her cooking classes.
Betty Alex, who has taken cooking classes with Foo, said she enjoyed the class.
"I learned so much about Southeast Asian cooking, and the whole philosophy was just wonderful," Alex said. "I became a better cook."
For more information about classes, email [email protected]
Satay, 3202 W. Anderson Lane, Ste. 205, 512-467-6731, www.satayusa.com,
- Mon.–Thu. 11 a.m.–3 p.m., 5–9:30 p.m.;
- Fri. 11 a.m.–3 p.m., 5–10:30 p.m.;
- Sat. 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.;
- Sun. 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.