Chef Aung Kyaw has spent plenty of time around Thai cuisine. Not only is he a master of balancing the components found in every traditional dish, he also cooks with fresh, quality ingredients and brings textures to life. From the amount of spice to the crunch of a carrot, Kyaw has the entire spectrum covered.

The chef’s pad thai features succulent shrimp and small strips of chicken on a bed of rice noodles, complimented by an aromatic peanut sauce and a wedge of lime. However, no amount of earthy peanut sauce or tart citrus can extinguish the red chili flakes burning underneath the unassuming noodles.

Not to be outdone, the paneng curry is flush with smoldering, complex flavors. The paneng’s gravy-like broth uses a subtle mixture of basil, peanut and sweet coconut milk to invite the senses inside. A few seconds later, it scolds them for not taking their shoes off with a scalding afterburn of appetizing heat. The best part is the broth makes the meat nice and tender.

- MyMetMedia, 2011. Ian Gassman