Q&A with Jet Tila, Pakpao Thai
A chef's perspective on Asian food, flavor and ingredients
Prepared Foods talks with Jet Tila, executive chef of Pakpao Thai in Dallas. Tila is also known for his Food Network appearances on “Chopped,” “Iron Chef America,” “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” “Cutthroat Kitchen,” and “Guy’s Grocery Games.” In 2010, Tila partnered with Schwan’s Home Service to create five different Asian-inspired meals for home delivery. Today, he serves as a member of Schwan’s Chefs Collective, a consulting experts team working across Schwan’s multiple product lines.
Prepared Foods: How would you describe 2017’s Asian food trends?
Jet Tila: I’d say Ramen was big—primarily Tonkotsu style. The rich, fatty collagen laden broth with pork belly, egg and chewy noodles. The other noodle soup that continues to gain in popularity is PHO. Meanwhile, there was green tea in everything including soft serve, donuts, boba and more. Poke was everywhere—including grocery stores. Thai food is reaching ubiquity and gochujang (sauce) was gaining popularity.
PF: How would you describe this year’s trends? Any surprises?
Tila: I think the trends mentioned above are continuing in their popularity and evolution. I’m starting to see more Filipino American chefs gaining notoriety and, with that, Filipino foods look very strong to me for 2018. Other new trending items are very high-end proteins (Wagyu and heritage meats) with Asian preparations. You’re also seeing more hybrid steak houses as well as more Asian flavors and techniques applied to all foods in modern “mash-up” fusion.
PF: What’s been a new Schwan’s product that you’re particularly proud of?
Tila: An Asian Rainbow Slaw (pictured) using some of the sauce I’ve worked on with the Schwan’s Chef Collective for their K-12 Kitchen Collaboratives. This was a case where we developed school lunch menu items based off direct student feedback of what they want to see on menus. K-12 kids want comfort foods and more variety in their lunches, and I think we are making a lot of progress in those areas.
This recipe was made at our most recent Kitchen Collaborative in Albuquerque, N.M., in November, 2017, and features Minh Sweet & Sour Sauce, Minh Teriyaki Sauce, white vinegar, coleslaw, diced pear, edamame, shredded bok choy and shredded carrots. We also took feedback from the school staff to try and incorporate more leafy greens such as bok choy, and I think this recipe does a great job of delivering on taste for students and nutritional needs the school must meet.
PF: Your thoughts about Asian food, flavor trends for 2019?
Tila: I believe the gap will narrow between the authentic dishes that people love—and what they don’t think prepared foods professionals can make. Meanwhile, I think consumers will eat more vegetables overall. Fermented foods, such as kimchi and miso, will increase in popularity (similar to kombucha now). Overall, what was “foreign” and “exotic” will become ubiquitous.
Originally appeared in the June, 2018 issue of Prepared Foods as First Person.