The Omnivore
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The Omnivore

How One Bangkok Couple Brought their Culture to New York’s Queens

Our newest episode of ‘Hungerlust’ features the cuisine of an Astoria-based, family-owned Thai restaurant.

New York’s eclectic borough of Queens can often fall in the shadow of its glitzy neighbor, Manhattan, and effortlessly cool Brooklyn. Yet, travelers would be remiss to overlook this part of New York City, which was crowned the top destination to visit in 2015 by Lonely Planet.

What sets Queens apart from the rest of NYC is its rich diversity. The borough is a veritable melting pot of cultures—from Chinese to Colombian to Greek. On this episode of Hungerlust, we ventured to Astoria to meet with the family behind the Thai restaurant, Pochana.

Thai food has always been an omnipresent favorite in New York, but authentic Thai food — which is to say a menu that goes beyond the traditional pad thai — can be tricky to find.

Pochana is run by Lek & New Tangchitsumra, a husband and wife duo from Bangkok who whip up traditional Thai recipes not often found in New York City. With a section on the menu aptly titled “Family Recipes,” Pochana serves up “Grandma’s pork chop,” “Uncle New’s Crab Curry,” and other family favorites that transport the flavors of Bangkok to the streets of Queens.

“In Thailand, the word “pochana” means restaurant or food,” explains Natt, Lek & New’s daughter and who is also employed at the restaurant. “[My family] decided to use the word “pochana” because it just means food and that’s what we want to focus on here, just the family recipes we came up with.”

Earlier this year, travelers and foodies alike were shocked at the announcement that Bangkok would ban street food by the end of 2018, making it that much harder to enjoy authentic Thai food, even in Thailand.

As Natt explains, the initiative is an attempt to “clean up the streets” of her family’s former hometown by moving street vendors indoors and controlling the food’s handling to prevent tourist illness. How the street food ban will ultimately affect Thailand’s rich food scene remains to see, but one thing is clear: preserving traditional family recipes, like those whipped up at Pochana, has never been more paramount.

A version of this story originally appeared on Culture Trip. Read more of Nikki’s writing here and follow Nikki on Twitter @TravelEditorNik.

Hungerlust is a new original series from Culture Trip, that explores the diverse food scene of NYC and the stories of the immigrants behind each dish. Watch the other Hungerlust episodes on Vietnam and Colombia!