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What makes Thai food special in Cuenca — The Thai Connection

By Susan Burke March

Although our local Ecuadorian cuisine is wholesome, it is often lacking in pizzazz. I find myself reaching for the aji even before tasting.

restaurant review logoBut Thai food is quite different. How to describe it?

Cookbook author and celebrity chef known as “McDang” says what makes Thai food special is its balance, detail, and variety.

As reported in Wikipedia, Chef McDang says, “Thai food, well-prepared, is almost like an artist’s palette, with intricacy, attention to detail, texture, color, taste, and the use of ingredients.  And of course, good flavor is paramount.”

Chef McDang also describes Thai cuisine as placing emphasis on “lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge.”

Authentic Thai in Cuenca

The Thai Connection is a welcome new addition to Cuenca’s ethnic dining scene.

Mex Fischer and his Thai-born wife Wan serve fresh, authentic, delicious and well-priced dishes at their bright and spotlessly clean restaurant on Gran Colombia and Unidad Nacional. Many will be familiar with the location, right next to the Common Grounds.

As it is with many chefs, Wan started her culinary education as a small child in her grandmother’s kitchen.  She professionally trained and worked in a 5-Star restaurant in Bangkok, where she and Austrian-born Mex met. About two-and-a-half years ago, they moved to Ecuador, and established their Thai Connection restaurant in coastal Montanita.  Although they had moved to the coast for the warm climate, and the restaurant was successful, they decided that Cuenca was a better fit for their family, with more culture and parks for their small son, and more opportunity to grow their business. Here in Cuenca, they’ve found all that and more…they’re enjoying the community of expats and locals, and are happy to have made the move.

13116205_1162112633828717_7833726115776692177_oOver a huge portion of spring rolls, I spoke with Mex and Wan about Thai food, and the Thai Connection.

Susan: Thai food is known to be a healthy cuisine, and the ingredients are quite unique. The spices, the flavors…they’re not typical to this part of the world.  How easy is it to obtain what you need to make your traditional dishes?

Mex & Wan:  Authentic Thai food is always made fresh to order, and the nature of the cuisine is to be crisp and bright. We stir-fry and sauté, which helps the ingredients retain their nutrients and flavors. Rice and noodles are the foundation of traditional Thai food, and all our dishes emphasize fresh vegetables, ranging from bean sprouts to broccoli, eggplant, to sweet potato and squash. We also use fresh lemongrass (a culinary herb that has a subtle citrus flavor).

Obtaining authentic ingredients was quite a challenge in Montanita, but we can reliably obtain essentials here in Cuenca.

We shop at Supermaxi for many staples, including coconut milk and our fresh dairy.  But it’s the proximity to all of the mercados and vendors that makes Cuenca so attractive.  And we are ecstatic about the variety of fresh mushrooms available here, and it was almost impossible to find them in Montanita — so many of our traditional dishes include them, and the mushrooms we find here are exceptional.

We love being so close to the big mercado Feria Libre because we buy much of our produce and meats fresh daily.  We are very careful and have our favorite vendors for organic beef and chicken, and for produce and eggs.  Our fish is delivered daily by a trusted vendor from Machala…we are very proud that all of our ingredients are top quality.

It is very tough to get some authentic ingredients, but we must, and we do. To make sure our flavors are consistent, we import Thai fish sauce and we also import a much better grade of cashews than we’ve been able to find in Ecuador — we insist quality, and our customers can taste the difference.

About the Author

Susan Burke March

Susan Burke March, a Cuenca expat, is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Certified Diabetes Educator who specializes in smart solutions for weight loss and diabetes-related weight management. She is the author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally — a fun and informative book intended to liberate serial dieters and make healthy living and weight control both possible and instinctual over the long term. Contact her at SusantheDietitian@gmail.com

  • LadyMoon

    They do a nice job…food tastes good and portions are generous and filling…but I’ve never had Thai food like this…and I’ve had it all over the USA. Perhaps what I had was ‘Thai-USA’ food?

    • StillWatching

      How is that any different than saying, “I’ve never had Mexican food like this and I’ve had it all over Germany”?

      Thai Connection food is authentic, as unto “just like the Thai food I ate in Thailand for years.” Best spring rolls I’ve ever had, anywhere.

    • Martin Cohen

      Well, the thousands of Thai restaurants in the USA must be doing something right. They serve Pad Thai the way it tastes good, with soft noodles and lots of crunched peanuts!

      • StillWatching

        The way it tastes good, or the way it tastes good to you?

        • Martin Cohen

          Well, since I’m what’s called a “customer,” I think my opinion has merit. No, I’ve never been to Thailand, but I know what I like and what most Norteamericanos are used to when it comes to Thai food. Might be a smart business proposition to provide food that the local customers would like.

      • Ken

        Is this the forum to complain about how much better you thought it was in the USA?
        Answer:
        No

  • Martin Cohen

    But, if you come alone, don’t try to order a smaller portion of spring rolls – say two, instead of four – because the owners will refuse to sell it to you! Not everyone wants to eat spring rolls as a main course.

    • StillWatching

      That seems like a valid concern to me. I’m going to ask the owner if that is so. Why wouldn’t they want to serve the public with what seems to be such a simple request?

    • Frederic

      Why don’t you try to order a half Big Mac next time you go to McDonald’s. If you can’t finish ,take it home.

      • Martin Cohen

        You obviously understand nothing about “customer service.” The smartest thing Mex could have done that day, was go into the kitchen and bring me one or two spring rolls. He would have created a satisfied customer, that thing which is needed to stay in business. No single person is going to eat four spring rolls, and not everyone wants to take food home – or is going home directly.

        • Mex Thai connection

          Dear Martin. As from now on Thai connection will be offering 2 spring rolls instead of 4 by request. We hope to satisfy you with this solution. Thank you,
          Thai connection.

        • Jonathan Hymn Mogrovejo

          Well Martin, isn’t that nice of Mex to sell you an order of 2 spring rolls. lol

      • Jonathan Hymn Mogrovejo

        Lol… Two slices of pizza from Fabianos please…

  • Jonathan Hymn Mogrovejo

    The Spring Rolls are great!

  • SUSAN CORREA

    Who care if it’s terribly “authentic”? IT TASTES GREAT!!! We had the Spring Rolls as an appetizer, then #4 for me, Ginger Chicken, and a seasoned ground beef dish with mint for my husband…..AWESOME!!! Can’t wait to go back!!!

  • Yes, the portions are pretty big! Better bring your appetite 😉

    • StillWatching

      But won’t a raw ketogenic diet take care of the big portions problem?