Wiley Frank and PK.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Shophouse is a family affair, with Wiley Frank and his wife, Poncharee Kounpungchart, sharing kitchen duties.
Wiley Frank and his wife


Diners Reap the Rewards of Lark's Sous Chef's Trip to Thailand

Wiley Frank and PK.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Shophouse is a family affair, with Wiley Frank and his wife, Poncharee Kounpungchart, sharing kitchen duties.
Wiley Frank and his wife Poncharee Kounpungchart (PK) spend Mondays cooking down-home Thai food at Licorous, dishes that reflect their inspirational year living in Thailand in a pop-up restaurant called Shophouse. Wiley, the sous chef at Lark, got an early start in the kitchen. Read part one of this week's Grillaxin Q&A to learn more about the couple's culinary journey.

SW: What were you doing before you left for Thailand? When did you start cooking professionally?

Wiley: I was cheffing at Licorous before we left. I started getting restaurant paychecks at age 15 from the Back Bay Inn on Vashon Island.

How cool is it that John Sundstrom has provided you with this platform? What skills have you learned from him that you use every day?

Very cool. I have learned that whoever drives the bus needs to stay calm, collected, and not flip out.

When it comes to cooking, how much is prep time and how much is cleanup?

It is all about prepping with Shophouse. Banging the mortar and pestle, slicing, dicing, and simmering are when the magic happens. Service is simple and plate-ups are not elaborate. So we stay clean, and the final cleanup is a cinch.

Is there any task that you hate doing? (Like shelling fava beans?)

I dislike having to repair broken appliances, but it is so rewarding when I actually figure out the solution.

What's your ultimate plan with Shophouse? Are you trying to find investors? How hard is it for an aspiring chef to open their own place?

We dream of a restaurant. Money obviously helps things along, so we are certainly cultivating support. It is difficult to strike it out on your own, but all things happen for a reason.

Where do you like to dine out in Seattle?

For me it is all about roots food. The Salvadoran Bakery in White Center, Maneki in the ID, and Northwest Tofu, Inc. on Jackson and 20th are the places where I would send someone with absolute certainty. At Northwest Tofu, order the fried buns, salt-and-pepper tofu, and mustard greens, and take some cream buns home.

Have you been to Pok Pok in Portland? Does it live up to the hype?

We went to lunch there a few years ago and it was great. I'm not sure exactly how the hype is defining them, but they have good food and it is worth a visit.

What's your best advice to home cooks who want to make Thai food? Do you have a favorite brand of coconut milk? What's your favorite Asian supermarket?

Thai food from scratch can be difficult because the prep is so intensive. Start simple and make one dish and build from there. Maybe make a big batch of red curry paste. From that, make a red beef curry with steamed rice. Then the next time, make that curry again, with something else, like scrambled eggs, or a yum from whatever is in season, or use the recipe for broiled spare ribs supplied. It can be easy to be overwhelmed, but just keep it simple and master one dish or technique at a time. There are some great websites now, like allrecipes.asia (which I have submitted a few recipes to).

There are not many brands of coconut milk to choose from. It is really easy to make coconut milk yourself, especially if cooking at home. Otherwise I would go with Chaokoh or whatever is priced highest--you get what you pay for.

For Thai ingredients, I go to two places: Mekhong on Rainier and Walden, because it is close to my house and their selection is more succinct. Or I go to the Viet Wah on MLK as a second option.

Check back for part three of this week's Grillaxin for Wiley's rib recipe.

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