So, what are you having for dinner, Morgan family? —Saap Restaurant
Even though it is tucked away in a corner of Randolph, Vermont, chances are you have already heard of Saap, a restaurant owned by Steve and Rung Morgan that serves northern Thailand cuisine. It had existed quietly enough for several years. Then, in 2022, Nisachon (Rung) Morgan became the winner of the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast.
In June, 2022, Steve accompanied his wife Rung, bolstered by a handful of other family members, to a ceremony in Chicago where the awards were announced. Rung was at that time still one of five finalists; the winner was not yet known. What was it like when it was her name that was announced from the podium? Steve responded: “Shock for me. [Prior to her nomination,] Rung had no idea who James Beard was or anything about the award.”
One of the perks of being in Chicago was an opportunity for the Morgans and company to dine at Frontera Grill, owned by the legendary Chef Rick Bayless. Not only did they get to indulge in some of his famous Mexican cuisine, they got to meet Bayless himself. (Photo, above. Steve Morgan, Rick Bayless, Rung Morgan.)
Since news of the Beard Award has spread, Steve says the restaurant is humming, with people driving long distances to partake of the food. The location remains the same; it shares space with an arts center in a rambling Victorian building at the end of Randolph Avenue.
When Rung and Steve were asked what they would order for dinner from their own menu, for the first time in this series, there was no clear favorite. “We change what we eat daily, . . . we also eat off menu sometimes.”
Not so for Julia Morgan. Julia is Steve’s mother and Rung’s mother-in-law, and she too made the trip to the awards ceremony in Chicago for the big announcement. She has a definite preference. Julia’s pick?
“ . . . Pad Kee Mao. I prefer pork or chicken but you can also get shrimp. Wide chewy rice noodles, Chinese broccoli, carrots, garlic, crispy Thai basil. I just love the noodles and the flavor of the dish. I also get zero spice as I don't like it too spicy.”
If you’re looking to follow Julia’s suggestion (I did), it’s Number 26 on the menu.
This is another in a series of interviews with local restaurant folks in which Daybreak’s Rob Gurwitt and I try to learn and report on what items on their own menus they particularly fancy.
(Photos courtesy of Steve Morgan)
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.