Photo of Sam Fore
Photo of Sam Fore

Sam Fore

Sam Fore is a Sri Lankan-American chef based in Lexington, Kentucky. Her cooking is a reflection of her Sri Lankan upbringing in the American South. Sam's dishes include her spin on Southern classics as well as new riffs on her family's time-tested recipes.

Expertise: Sri Lankan Cuisine, Southern Cuisine, Pop-up Restaurants

Experience: Sam Fore started her pop-up restaurant, Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites, in 2016, after traditional Sri Lankan brunches in her home outgrew her dining room. Her recipes can be found in multiple national publications and across the web — her take on tomato pie graced the cover of Food & Wine in 2019. She was named one of Plate magazine's Chefs to Watch in 2018, and was one of Southern Living's inaugural Cooks of the Year in 2020. In 2021, she joined the cast of Christopher Kimball's "Milk Street", which airs nationally on PBS stations.
My mother grew up in Sri Lanka, but it wasn’t until she emigrated to the United States in the 1970s and started building a family that she began cooking her native cuisine in earnest. When I was old enough, I started paying attention as she prepared elaborate, traditional meals for my family. That’s when I learned about tempering.Tempering is one of the most valuable tenets of Sri Lankan cooking I learned from my mother. The process is quite simple. Whole spices, like cumin and mustard seeds, get a quick swirl in hot oil, toasting them just enough to impart big flavor in minimal time. This flavorful cooking medium is then used as the base for any number of dishes; meats especially get beautiful color when seared in oil heavily flavored by chiles, onion, curry leaves, and ginger. You can also use it at the very end of a recipe. Some of my favorite dishes get a splash of this flavorful oil before serving; it’s a dramatically delicious way to finish a dish.The versatility of the technique can unlock a whole new world of options at your dinner table. It’s a fast way to introduce a balancing element of bitterness, earthiness, or brightness to the simplest of dishes, making it handy for quick weeknight meals.These tempered sweet potatoes illustrate how transformative the technique is. Hearty, filling, and packed with the flavors of my mother’s kitchen—onion, ginger, and chile flakes—they’re my cold-weather go-to. While my mother made this dish with russet potatoes or Yukon golds, I like using sweet potatoes because they are both firm and forgiving, making them ideal for soaking up the chile-and-spice-laden oil.