Leah Cohen had just come off of a stint on Top Chef around a decade ago and found herself with a touch more fame (and infamy) than she cared to navigate. She’d been cooking Italian food in New York City and she realized she needed a break from it all. So she left for southeast Asia to travel, cook and eat for what turned out to be a year. In the Philippines she got to eat dishes her mother had cooked for her as a kid, and in Thailand she was blown away by the quality of the food every she turned. It changed her as a cook, and when she arrived back in the US (with a bit of nudging from her parents), she poured all of that experience into her Lower East Side restaurant Pig & Khao. She was serving chicken adobo, sizzling sisig, khao soi and more from her travels. Eight years and a pandemic later, she’s still serving her Manhattan neighborhood (takeout for now).
But that big trip nearly a decade ago wasn’t the end of her exploration of cooking across Southeast Asia. She returns every year with her husband and business partner, Ben, to learn something new. That includes a rather large research trip to write her very first cookbook, Lemongrass & Lime.
In this episode of Robb Report Culinary School, Cohen joins culinary editor Jeremy Repanich to discuss writing the book, the state of her restaurants during the pandemic, secrets of making fried snapper with mango salad and how her son is much better sleeper than Jeremy’s.
Odds and Ends and Additional Links
- Back in 2018, Cohen shared her tips with Robb Report readers on how to navigate Bangkok’s thriving night markets.
- Piggyback in NYC opened earlier this year and for the time being remains closed.
- Cohen’s first cookbook, Lemongrass & Lime is on sale now.
- You can follow Cohen on Instagram @leahscohen.
- Head to Robb Report’s Instagram page to check out more episodes of Culinary School, including Top Chef winner Mei Lin’s congee and James Beard Award-winner Chris Shepherd’s recipe for bacon chile jam.