Kasma Loha-Unchit

For more than 20 years, my cooking teacher, Kasma Loha-unchit, has dedicated herself to teaching Westerners about Thai food and culture. For her, it's not enough simply to give her students new recipes and techniques. When I first took a class in her Oakland, California, kitchen, Kasma told us, "If you want to make Thai food, you should learn to eat like a Thai." And so we tested the astringency of banana blossoms on our tongues, we ratcheted up our tolerance for searing-hot Thai chiles, and we learned to appreciate the piney fragrance of galangal. We also learned to balance the hot, salty, sour, and sweet flavors that make Thai food so delicious. Kasma's cooking is authentic Thai home cooking. Now, in my own home, I come to the table with dishes like curried fish mousse in banana leaves and crispy duck salad with lemongrass and cashews. My friends and family say, "Wow!" —Donna Yee, Walnut Creek, California

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