Chef Recommends: Panang Green Curry with Chicken & Shrimp
Chef Chris Fernandez from Red Mesa selects a classic Thai dish from Siam Garden in St. Pete
Growing up in Oaxaca, Mexico, Chef Chris Fernandez is no stranger to spice. He admits that’s part of the reason he loves dining at Siam Garden in St. Petersburg. One of the longest-tenured Thai restaurants in Pinellas County, the family owned and operated Siam Garden has been serving Chef Chris all the spicy food he can handle since he was just 18. Now 40, chef still stops by at least twice a month to feast on an amazing spread of authentic Thai cuisine.
blu: There are so many Thai restaurants in Tampa Bay. In your opinion, what makes Siam Garden the best?
Chef: I’ve tried so many other places but the way he makes his food—he uses old school traditional woks for everything, doesn’t cut corners, he makes his own sauces and blends his own spices, and nothing is pre-made—the consistency is always right on. He just hasn’t changed in more than 25 years. It’s one of the first cuisines I tried when I came to the states and I’ve tried other places since then but nothing is like Siam Garden.
blu: Talk about the panang curry. How do you order it?
Chef: I like it extra spicy—as hot as he can make it—with green curry, chicken and shrimp. Chef cooks it with coconut milk, basil, bamboo shoots, and onions and peppers. It’s funny, they know I like spicy food so they’ll bring me a Lazy Susan of dried Thai peppers and spices when they serve my food so I can make it hotter. I do have to order a glass of Thai tea with sweet coconut milk to neutralize the burn, though (laughs).
blu: Your love for spice certainly crosses over into your dishes at Red Mesa. Where do you get your inspiration?
Chef: I travel all around the world and take a trip to Mexico each year to get inspiration. But we have diverse backgrounds in the kitchen. Peter (the owner) has a Cuban background, I’m from Mexico and in the kitchen we have some Spanish influences too. We like to be different.
Siam Garden is located at 3125 9th St. N ., St. Petersburg, FL 33704 . For more information, call 727.822.0613.
Red Mesa is located at 4912 4th St. No., St. Petersburg, FL 33703 and Red Mesa Cantina is located at 128 3rd St. S., St. Petersburg, FL.