As Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s editor at Food & Wine, I worked for eight years with a chef devoted to Thai flavors: his squash on toast pulses with the heat of chiles; lime juice works like a taser in his beurre noisette; his green chickpea hummus comes shot through with Thai basil. With this apprenticeship, I thought I knew something about Thai cuisine. That was before my recent eating tour of the Southeast Asian country with Thai-cooking superstar Andy Ricker, whose Pok Pok restaurants in New York City and Portland, Oregon, recreate specific, regional Thai food. Ricker is a white chef with no family roots in Thailand, but he’s cooked there for months out of every year since 1994, and there’s no greater American guide to dishes you’ve never heard of. Each stop was an education in how to eat, how to order and how to cook. I came home with the largest clay mortar I could carry and these revelatory lessons.—Jane Sigal

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