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Article updated: 7/2/2013 3:14 PM

Cook of the Week: Mom relies on fresh ingredients to fuel family

By Sally Eyre

Daily Herald Correspondent

When Pam Soramuk was 10 years old and living in Thailand, her mother taught her how to cook. Pam pretty much hated it.

"I didn't like it because it was something I had to do!" she laughs. In fact, even though her family owned a bakery in Thailand, she wasn't interested.

"I didn't care about it -- I hated the smell of all the butter!"

Isn't it ironic that Pam, who now lives in Palatine, loves to cook, that she and her husband own a restaurant, and that often Pam calls home for recipes from the bakery? What happened?

"I had kids!" she laughs. "Everything you do for kids has more passion!"

Pam came to Chicago 20 years ago to earn her master's degree in finance at Loyola University. Missing Thailand, she asked her aunt and uncle who lived here, which restaurant had the best Thai food. They directed her to Siri Thai II in Palatine where she met, and eventually married, the chef and owner.

"Some things are just meant to be," she smiles.

Today, Pam helps her husband manage the restaurant, works at a coffee shop and is the busy mother of two. While the family usually eats dinner at the restaurant, Pam prepares their breakfasts, lunches and snacks

"I am the snack expert. You have to be very creative. For the kids I make mini things. They are small, cute and colorful. Everything you do for kids you want to be healthy and look colorful and pretty. You want the kids to say, 'Wow!' and start eating."

Pam is very determined that her children eat healthy food and are not picky eaters. The Soramuks have one rule when it comes to introducing a new food.

"We tell them they have to try one bite. They have to chew and swallow. If they don't like it, fine. We don't force them."

Another way Pam gets her kids to eat healthy food, is by explaining exactly what it does for them. A chart in the kitchen shows them what vitamins and minerals they derive from various foods.

"I tell them the good part of food. I talk about the five categories of the food pyramid so they understand. They ask so many questions."

One of Pam's favorite tricks is to throw all five food categories into one bite, and Thai cooking lends itself very well to this scheme.

"I mix everything together and press it into one food!"

Her vegetable spring rolls are one example. These light, crunchy rolls are made with fresh vegetables, rolled into a rice wrapper. A pineapple-hoisin dipping sauce adds the sweet factor the kids love.

"I don't like calcium from milk, because of the hormones, so I get it to them in vegetables."

Her kid-sized egg rolls and pot-stickers are favorite after school snacks as well. Both are packed with protein, either chicken or shrimp, vegetables, garlic, carrots and cilantro.

A favorite meal is stir-fried rice, a colorful blend of fresh vegetables mixed with rice and chicken.

In the past year, Pam has been enjoying baking. When her daughter became obsessed with "Cupcake Wars" on the Food Network, Pam wanted to know what the fuss was about.

"I tasted one from the grocery store; it was so heavy and too sweet. I knew I didn't want my kids to eat those so I had to make them myself."

Pam called home for a recipe, but the difference in climate between the two countries, not to mention the difference in available ingredients, forced Pam to experiment.

"It didn't poof up! I just kept trying it and tasting it until I got it right."

Her family and friends enjoy her efforts, but Pam admits she limits the sweets in her own diet.

"If I eat sweets, I eat them early in the day. I try to eat right, sleep right and enjoy every single day. You cannot buy time with your family. It is the most important thing."

Ÿ To suggest someone to be profiled here, send the cook's name, address and phone number to food@dailyherald.com.

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