The chef joins Biscuits & Jam.

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Samantha Fore
Credit: Dennis Cahlo

About Biscuits & Jam:  In the South, talking about food is personal. It's a way of sharing your history, your family, your culture, and yourself. Each week Sid Evans, Editor in Chief of Southern Living, sits down with celebrity musicians to hear stories of how they grew up, what inspired them, and how they've been shaped by Southern culture. Sid takes us back to some of their most cherished memories and traditions, the family meals they still think about, and their favorite places to eat on the road.

Season 2

Episode 25:  November, 16, 2021

Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Stitcher.

In 2016, Samantha Fore founded her pop-up restaurant Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites in Lexington, KY, after brunch service in her own home became the talk of the town. Though Tuk Tuk is one of the few representations for Sri Lankan cuisine in the South, Samantha has quickly developed a loyal following, with her pop-up dinners selling out all over the country and her recipes showing up on the cover of magazines. She was also named one of Southern Living's Cooks of the Year for 2020.

On today's program, Samantha shares her personal journey, why Lexington is one of the South's culinary hotspots, and which country music superstar will always eat at Tuk Tuk for free.

On the Cook in Her Family

"My mother by far. Absolutely my mother. When you come over from halfway around the world, it's not like there's folks coming with you to help you cook or to help you run the house, You're in a new country on your own. And so she learned how to cook after she got here, which is really impressive because she's quite possibly one of the best cooks I've ever known. She's phenomenal."

On Her Family

"My mom's family is from a little town outside of Negombo called Divulapitiya, and it is near the beach. There are rubber plantations, there are coconut plantations. And my family on my mother's side was in processing and doing stuff for the local township. My dad's family was in a little part of Colombo called Manning Town for a bit, but then they moved to the mountains of Kandy. So I've got the beach in the mountains. It's pretty good combination."

On Sri Lankan Cuisine

"I like to describe it as a really fun love child of Indian and Thai cuisines, because it has some of the best tenets between the spices of South Indian cuisine, where you've got the big flavors of coriander, cumin, chili peppers. And then you have the coconut milk, sour, the lime. So I kind of think of it as their Mediterranean kid, if that makes sense, because it's an island, you know, it's the size of West Virginia. It has incredible biodiversity, considering all of those things. But with all of the influences between the trade, the colonization, and the natural migration of ingredients between Africa, Asia, and America, it really kind of developed its own identity because you have influences from the English, influences from the Portuguese influences, from the Dutch influences from the natives, and that doesn't even cover it all. I'm really excited about my next trip, because I want to discover more. I want to learn as much as I can."

On Her Famous Fried Chicken

"Just one bite of the fried chicken, everyone flipped out. So I have this habit of asking dear friends, what do you want to see? What do you want to like? And so that's how the ribs came about. That's how the Curry Fried Chicken came about. And I was just like, 'okay, I have had a lot of different kinds of fried chicken.' I was making wings. I was doing dip swings. I was like, 'no, I want a really, really good piece of fried chicken, but I want it to taste like something I know from the get-go. I want it to be unmistakably mine.' I lived about two minutes from a bar at the time, and I would run batches over as I fried them.

And we went through 16 different batches of brine to come up with the brine and about 12 or 14 different dredges. And I just kept on testing until I found the one that I liked. I wanted something that would stay crispy for 15 minutes or more because I knew people were standing outside and having their food get cold….The thing about my fried chicken is that you have that beautiful buttermilk softening and acidifying a little bit here and there and adding some fattiness to it. I put everything in my brine that I would put into a chicken Curry, everything, and now I have it standardized down to like a blend. So it's even easier, but I used to just do it all from scratch -- toast everything up, grind everything down, make this huge flavorful slurry of buttermilk and spices and just douse them for a couple hours.

And now, when you bite into it there's something about it that just carries that cumin and coriander through, a little bit of lemongrass on the back end as well. But the thing that sets it apart is that I put lime juice on it, after I take it out of the fryer. So I put lime juice, Curry leaves, and a little salt. And there's something about that combination where it becomes a composed bite and that's the moment where it's just like, okay, I got this down. And so now whenever I do fried chicken, it's a mad house. I just started selling the fried chicken spice. I can't keep up. I made it foolproof. I want to make everything foolproof because  I am not without mistakes. I make mistakes all the time. So, I want something that is idiot proof for the moments that I'm not on my game."

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Stitcher.

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