The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Thai cuisine rolls into Seward

 

Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Mark Techenbrock prepares a delicious Thai dish in the van he bought and renovated.

Boombai Thai is the second of three new restaurants to open in Seward over the past two months. Mark Teckenbrock, known to many as the local Seward High School auditorium tech, jazz guitarist and guitar teacher, has found himself onboard a hip new trend – curbside food service. He’s opened a new Thai food truck with the catchphrase “Curry Up,” that will be offering four tasty Northern Thai-style dishes this summer, and into early fall. It’s is the second Thai place to open the first being Woody’s Thai Kitchen, at Fourth and B.

As soon as the flashy red and black GMC bread van with a tiger face on it put in an appearance on TelAlaska Inc. property at Fourth and Jefferson last week, it began drawing customers pleased to see another food selection offered – even if Seward just got Thai food. They also were happy to help out a fellow resident trying to earn some extra money during the off-season, and were glad for his attempts to keep prices reasonable. Most of the four dishes that the Boombai Thai van offers are priced between $8 and $11, plus a couple extra dollars to add something else such as prawns or an egg.

Teckenbrock, who is an experienced chef trained at West Culinary Institute in Oregon, said he chose to keep the number of dishes to a minimum because it makes it easier to cook and supply, and thereby faster to serve. He also wanted to be sure to do them justice. “I wanted to do things that you don’t normally find at a Thai restaurant, and I wanted to do it right,” he said.

He learned the recipes he chose directly from taking master classes from a chef named Mr. Sompon in Chaing Mai in Northern Thailand, and he fell in love with Boombai Curry, the van’s namesake, made with red curry, pork, coconut milk, cherry tomatoes, quail eggs, shaved carrots and rice. “It just was deeply aromatic and had just the right balance of savory and sweet and had all these kinds of things in it that really made it stand out, and it makes a great name on the side of the truck. I was originally going to name it “Curry Up.”

His signature dish, however, is the Chiang Mai chicken, a yellow curry dish with pickled mustard, egg, shallots and mustard greens cooked in a chili oil. Other dishes include Tom Yum Goong (sour prawn soup) with prawns, straw mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal as well as Pad Thai or Thai fried rice noodles with cilantro, peanuts, green onions, garlic with optional prawns or egg. He also sells banana and coconut ice cream, a coconut water drink and Thai iced tea.

He had planned to open a brick and mortar restaurant here in Seward well before Woody’s Thai Kitchen came to town, but bought the empty van in Seattle instead when he discovered he couldn’t afford it. He took out a loan, drove the van back to Alaska and spent the winter refurbishing its inside with the needed cooking equipment, refrigeration and serving spaces.

Teckenbrock said he didn’t actually realize that food vans had become a national trend, with popular food channel shows and websites dedicated to them, until he later researched the subject. But now he’s become a food truck junkie, and enjoys exploring what other kinds of creative food vans have to offer.

Teckenbrock has been pleased with the downtown TelAlaska location and with the deal he got to park it there. He also plans to station it near the front of the Grazing Moose Summer Market on weekends, across from city hall. Additionally, he plans to put in appearances at area summer festivals, probably ending the season with the annual Seward Arts and Music Festival in September.

He originally thought it would only be a one-person operation, but it soon became clear that he needed to employ additional staff to help him keep up with incoming orders. “I’m really grateful to everybody that’s come out the first couple of days and supported me, and I’m just really excited about the response we’re getting from Seward and so thankful,” said Teckenbrock.

 

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