Salt City Market entrance in Syracuse, New York. Photo by Yolanda Stewart| Central Current

Sarinthra “Sara” Tong-Ngork is no stranger to preparing culinary dishes, from her early childhood days of meticulously seasoning personalized noodle plates with her family, to learning how to perfect a thai omelet from her dad. 

The omelet is now a signature item at Ngork’s restaurant, Firecracker Thai Kitchen at Salt City Market. And Ngork will show off her popular summer roll when the market returns with its “A Taste of Syracuse” series in recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. 

During the event, which is scheduled to kick off on Thursday at 6 p.m. and will run through May 25, three chefs will share their knowledge of AAPI traditions and cuisines. 

This month’s chef lineup includes a combination of savory, spicy and overall satisfying items for attendees to enjoy.

For Ngork, a  Syracuse native with Thai roots, the decision to guide attendees on how to prepare the popular summer roll is a sign that better weather is approaching and gives her a chance to showcase fresh herbs and vegetables in season used in Thai dishes, she said.  

“I think food is often a very easy way to kind of delve into somebody’s culture. I think it’s such an important part of anyone’s culture,” Ngork said. “No matter where you are in the world, food culture is definitely present and important and can just be like a glimpse into a life that you aren’t familiar with.”

Ngork assures her class series will be immersive. Attendees can get their hands wet in learning to prepare a spring roll.

“There’s just something so simple and rewarding about cooking your culture’s food and sharing it with people and having them be receptive to it,” Ngork said. 

Holding events like this helps to spread cultures and cuisine, but also helps to amplify deeper understanding across all culturally-identified backgrounds, Ngork said.

For the finale of the AAPI event series, attendees’ five sensory abilities will be put to the test with a lesson in spices and cocktails.

Anirban Acharya, professor of political science and economics at LeMoyne College, will host the event in collaboration with Lucas Maley, mixologist at Salt City Bar.

The pair will be collaborating to infuse spice into drinks for their guests. Acharya is  interested in cooking and viewing the social history and globalization of food cultures. He will facilitate the event by providing context to the various spices introduced to appeal to the guests’ five senses.

 “I will be curating the spice part, but what I’ll be talking about in terms of spices – Lucas had prepared four different drinks, two non-alcoholic and two alcoholic drinks, and we are going to incorporate the spices in those drinks and have the participants taste it and tell us what spices were in there,” Acharya said.

Acharya, who is experienced with hosting similar events, recognizes the importance of having events that bring diverse groups of people together.

“I think food is a great uniter, conversation-starter, it brings down boundaries, so I think absolutely, there is a lot of work we can do with food and just bringing communities together that otherwise wouldn’t have met,” Acharya said. 

This month’s chef series features an assortment of AAPI cuisines. Each will share information about Asian American history, culture and food. 

  • May 11: Ngoc Huynh with Vietnamese Pig Ear & Lime Leaf Salad
  • May 18: Sara Tong-Ngork with Thai Summer Rolls
  • May 25:  Anirban Acharya & Salt City Bar with Spices & Cocktails

“We all come together and talk about food and find a commonality in our shared existence, and I think that’s something really beautiful,” Acharya said.

The event starts Thursday at 6 p.m. at Salt City Market. Guests will receive a complimentary glass of wine with their ticket purchase. Seating is limited. To register for the event, click here.


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