F&W Star Chef
Restaurants: Toki Underground, Maketto (Washington, DC)
Experience: Sticky Rice (Washington, DC)
What recipe are you most famous for?
Taipei curry chicken ramen. It’s a hybrid of Japanese curry, Japanese ramen and Taiwanese fried chicken.
What’s your favorite cookbook of all time?
Probably the original Morimoto cookbook. And I love the Uchi cookbook.
Is there a culinary skill or type of dish that you wish you were better at?
Provençal French cooking. I think Japanese cooking and French cooking are so in tune in terms of technique.
What’s your current food obsession?
Laotian food. There’s this awesome restaurant here, in the suburbs, called Bangkok Golden, and the woman who’s the chef, chef Seng, she just makes the best Laotian food. It’s spicy, it’s fishy, it’s fermented—it’s everything you never knew you liked.
What’s your favorite best-bang-for-the-buck ingredient?
Any dried fish: dried fish flakes, whole dried sardines, salt cod.
What is the most cherished souvenir you’ve brought back from a trip?
I always take spoons from restaurants. I’m a spoon thief. I just like to have them, and I remember where they’re all from.
What’s your dream project?
I want to open a spaghetti and meatball place in Taipei. I really just want to cook spaghetti and meatballs in a 500-square-foot space in Taiwan. That’s my retirement plan.
What ingredient will people be talking about in five years?
Kaffir lime. It’s just so awesome. You can use it for meats, vegetables, salad, pastry. It’s hard to get it here, but if you invest the time into growing your own it’s pretty incredible. You can grow them inside your house.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.