Sep 30, 2008

Thai Fresh Now Open in South Austin

I think I could eat Thai food every day. I love the bright, vibrant, clean flavors and the combinations of textures from crisp and crunchy to silky and velvety. I love a good feast at our favorite Thai restaurant, Madam Mam's. But I didn't know how to reproduce those flavors at home until my friend, Jennifer, invited me to take a class with her from Jam Sanitchat.

Jam grew up in Thailand and came to Austin to go to grad school at UT. She also started teaching cooking classes in her home (or in your kitchen for a group) and offering her food at a stand at the Austin Farmers' Market. We ended up taking two classes from her to get us started in the world of Thai cooking. Jam not only demonstrated how fast and easy Thai food can be to prepare (once you have a few pantry essentials), but also let us get behind the stove ourselves so we could really learn hands on. Afterwards, we got to sup on our creations. It was a great introduction. Jam is not only an enthusiastic teacher, but she's also just fun to hang out with.

It was in one of those classes that Jam told us she was working on developing her own store. In fact, Jennifer suggested the name Thai Fresh which stuck. We've been eagerly anticipating her store opening ever since.

Thai Fresh is now open in South Austin on West Mary Street. She has all the ingredients you need to make your own Thai food at home, including fresh produce and natural, grass-fed, hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats.

I often shop at local Asian markets, but usually end up coming home with products that are only available in the super-extra-huge size. My kitchen is very small with little storage, so those big bottles and jars are hard to store. We eat a lot of Asian food, but it still takes awhile to make our way through those big packages. But Jam has smaller-sized products that are not so intimidating for the space-challenged like me, or for first-timers just wanting to explore. She's got all the best brands and some time-savers like tamarind water and crunchy fried shallots for garnishing.

But if you're more in the mood for instant gratification, you can eat in or take out one of Jam's freshly-prepared specialties right in the store. She has a deli case full of curries and other tasty treats she's just made that are ready to go. There are tables inside and out or you can make a quick stop to pick up lunch or dinner to go. I brought home some of her Masaman curry with chicken, potatoes and pineapple. It had wonderful flavor with just the right amount of heat, enough to wake up your tastebuds, without going into full sinus-clearing mode. I loved the inclusion of the pineapple too. It was rich and luscious with the coconut milk and velvety chicken.

Jam has a spacious open kitchen in the store so she can continue teaching classes. I can't wait to try her street food class when I get a chance. You can also catch her teaching at Central Market occasionally. She said she may do another class there in the spring. Check out her current schedule of classes at her new store here.

While I was there I picked up some key ingredients so I'll be making one of the dishes she taught us that's become a favorite for us and posting about it here soon.

Jam also has a food blog, check out more of her yummy photos and food adventures here.

As I left, I saw some friends who live in the neighborhood (I'm so jealous) walking to her store. Since that area of South Austin doesn't have any nearby Asian eateries unless you want to face the challenge of trekking and trying to park downtown, I'm glad to see her business being so well received. Just wish we lived close enough to take more advantage of it.

Check out Thai Fresh for yourself. They're open Tuesday through Sunday, 11am-8pm.

Thai Fresh
909 West Mary Street
(between South Lamar and South 1st, just north of Oltorf)

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