A longstanding Beaumont tradition, The Taste of the Triangle is one of Southeast Texas’s most anticipated food festivals. Taking place on Mardi Gras each year, the Sabine Area Restaurant Association (SARA) invites Golden Triangle area restaurants to showcase their best bites with an all-you-can-eat and drink event and cook-off. The proceeds benefit local food banks and culinary scholarships, so you don’t have to feel bad about overindulging – it’s eating for a cause.
While many stick to the area’s Cajun-Creole-Southern roots and feature foods like gumbo, fried chicken, and barbecue, Chaba dazzled with their creative Thai cuisine, showing how diverse the area’s taste buds truly are. The winning dish was Panang Curry, savory dumplings, and fried rice.
We caught up with Chaba owner Ping Pong (Sarah) to discuss her win, the restaurant, and her take on the Beaumont food scene.
How long has Chaba been in Beaumont? When did you open the second location?
The first Chaba was on E. Lucas (which is now closed). The Chaba on Phelan has been open for 8 years. We opened a second location in Nederland in 2018.
Did you always want to be in Texas?
I was born and raised in Bangkok and moved here in 2007. I fell in love with Beaumont and Southeast Texas. People in this area love spicy food so I want to introduce tasty Thai cuisine to them.
What is your professional background -- did you always want to own a restaurant?
My mother used to cook for us when we were little so I learned from her before going to work at a sister Thai restaurant. Eventually, I decided to open my own.
What is the most popular item on the menu?
Our signature dish is called Pad Kee Mao, or Drunken Noodles. It’s made with ground pork, wide rice noodles, and fresh basil. You can’t find it at any other restaurant in the area.
What do you think about the Beaumont food scene?
Beaumont has a lot of diverse cuisines - pizza, barbecue, Vietnamese, Japanese. People here are very open to trying new things. I believe the future will offer even more variety.
Favorite place to eat other than your own restaurant?
I love Asian restaurants so I can try new flavor combinations. I’m constantly thinking of how to adapt my dishes and make them better.
I want to thank everyone for giving me the opportunity to introduce Thai cuisine to the community and for the support they’ve given us for over the years. I promise to keep up the good work up.
About Taste of the Triangle: A 30+ year event that takes place on Fat Tuesday, Taste of the Triangle is part marathon food fest, part culinary competition. Restaurants prepare 2-3 Texas-sized bites for tasting and judging. The competition is fierce (and sometimes literally hot), but people are always in good spirits as there is plenty of food and drinks to go around. The event is a fundraiser for Lamar culinary scholarships and the purchase of livestock for the local food banks. Make sure you put it on your culinary calendar for 2020!