As a part of our continued pursuit to share new flavors and different cuisines with our customers, we are so excited to announce our first menu collaboration! We've long admired this individual for her storytelling, mission & the genuine passion behind her social media content. We are thrilled to announce that throughout July, we’re partnering with Teena Thach, a first-generation woman of color, local foodie & social media creator, to share both Vietnamese and Cambodian-inspired meals.
Originally from the Southend of Tacoma, Teena proudly embraces her Vietnamese and Cambodian heritage, which greatly influences her foodie journey. Growing up with a Vietnamese mother who passionately cooked and introduced her to diverse flavors and a Cambodian father who shared the vibrant traditions of Khmer cuisine, these experiences ignited her appreciation for the cultural significance that food holds, deepening her connection to her roots.
Teena's upbringing and her love for exploring various cuisines inspires the work she does today. Through her Asian-inspired meals for Westerly, she aspires to share little pieces of her culture, encouraging others to step out of their comfort zones and embrace the extraordinary diversity of flavors from her childhood.
We sat down with Teena to chat about her story, her childhood dishes, and how she began telling other people's stories.
A conversation with Teena (T) and Westerly (W)
W: What inspired you to start creating and sharing videos about local restaurants?
T: After the passing of my father in 2020, I realized that tomorrow is never promised. My father's life had always been focused on working and rarely had a moment to simply enjoy life. While grieving my father and navigating the pandemic, I found comfort in food. What started as a hobby, creating food content for fun soon evolved into a purpose-driven mission.
I quickly discovered that storytelling around food could make a difference by highlighting the culinary delights and uncovering the unique stories of small black and brown immigrant-owned businesses, their backgrounds, and their struggles.
W: Is that what motivates you to continue making content?
T: Yes. I was driven by the desire to use social media for good. I want to encourage others to embrace new flavors, support local businesses, and find joy in the shared experience through delicious meals. Through this, I am also able to honor my father's memory and my family.
W: We firmly believe that food is a form of love and we can see it in the way you tell your stories and keep the memory of your father alive. We're incredibly honored to, in turn, tell your story. What dishes feel the most like home?
T: Rice porridge is home away from home, and pulls in Cambodian flavors from my childhood. Whenever I'm feeling under the weather, or the weather is rainy and cold, my mom will whip up a bowl of this goodness and calls it her Asian remedy magic soup. This is my childhood version of chicken noodle soup but made with rice, which my mom truly believes can cure just about anything.
And chicken curry, which is my favorite dish because I can always feel my mom’s love in it. Growing up, I remember coming home to the smell of curry filling the house and seeing the huge pot on the stove with the promise of delicious leftovers. There are many different flavor profiles of this chicken curry across Southeast Asian cultures, but this one is inspired by the one my mom makes for dinner with flavors of lemongrass, bay leaves, and coconut milk balanced by the rich broth of the protein.
W: Is there a dish that reminds you of your dad?
T: My mom would always make pineapple soup for my dad and we would all eat dinner together. This soup reminds me of him and his love for sweet and sour flavors. This dish really brought our family together and I remember my dad every time I have it. Don’t let the pineapple throw you off, this soup is light and refreshing and reminds me of a dish called Sinigang (a sour soup with pork and vegetables native to the Philippines - my fiancé is Filipino).
W: Teena introduced us to pineapple soup at Phnom Penh Noodle House a few weeks ago, and we all fell in love with it (we highly recommend ordering the Samlaw Machou). For our July menu we will be serving an inspired version of this Pineapple Sweet & Sour Soup with a Green Papaya Side Salad to make it a true Teena x Westerly fusion. We’re also adding pickled vegetables into the mix as one of the toppings. Why pickled vegetables?
T: I grew up with pickled vegetables as a staple side, so I wanted to infuse these flavors into a Westerly salad and thought it would pair perfectly with the pineapple soup.
W: What's a classic breakfast you grew up eating?
Bo Ne is fast and easy and traditionally served with a side of baguette. This is inspired by the Vietnamese version of bacon and eggs, popular as a staple street food and a classic breakfast my mom would make before school. When I was younger, I often wondered what other kids had for breakfast before school, and now I’m sharing a version of my breakfast with you.
W: What is a dish that you can eat no matter what?
T: I grew up eating vermicelli bowls - it's such a versatile dish. You can add whatever toppings you want and decide if you want to keep them separate or mix them all together. It can be served hot or cold and is my go-to for a light but hearty lunch.
W: We’ve created a Westerly salad inspired by the vermicelli bowl with a house-made vegan ‘fish’ sauce and a mix of cabbage and other leafy greens instead of romaine to bring you this season’s freshest produce. The house-made vegan ‘fish’ sauce was created using nori, tamari, and other ingredients to give it that umami profile.
T: I’m happy to say that the fish sauce holds up. It’s not easy to replicate that flavor without fish but after a few tastings, Chef Corbin got it. We landed on a perfect Westerly x Teena vegan ‘fish’ sauce.
W: Is there a dish that your family makes for special occasions? Celebrations?
T: I remember growing up eating beef stew as a hearty and warm celebratory soup, made for family gatherings big and small.
W: Speaking of special occasions, is there a dish that brings you back to any traditional festivals?
T: Growing up, I was always so excited to go to the temple during Cambodian New Year because they would have Ko Jakak skewers available to eat. This dish reminds me of all the Cambodian New Year celebrations I’ve shared with friends and family.
W: Our collaboration wouldn't be complete without at least one dessert... What's your favorite?
T: Mango sticky rice! Mango sticky rice is my favorite dessert. The lightly sweetened coconut sticky rice and mango are the perfect balance and blend of flavors to end every meal.
W: Thank you so much for sharing these memories and meals with us, Teena. We can’t wait to share them with everyone this month!
Everyone at Westerly has been so inspired by Teena’s mission, work, and genuineness. It's been an honor to work with her and learn more about her story. We hope that our Teena-inspired meals will give you a taste of Teena’s childhood and inspire you to try some of the Cambodian and Vietnamese restaurants in Seattle.
Teena's Favorite Cambodian Restaurants
- Phnom Penh Noodle House (Seattle)
- Theary Cambodian Food (Opening July 2nd, 2023, Federal Way)
- Angkor Wok (Seattle)
Teena's Favorite Vietnamese Restaurants
- Saigon Deli (Seattle)
- Billiard Hoang (Seattle)
- Bun Bo Hue Hoang Lan (Seattle)
- Pho Bac Sup Shop (Seattle)
- Pho Bac Cafe (Tacoma + Kent)
- Tacoma: 1115 S 11th St, Tacoma, WA 98405
- Kent: 18119 E Valley Hwy #102, Kent, WA 98032
- BASA Restaurant (Bainbridge)
- Renton Bistro (Renton)
- Rainier BBQ + Restaurant (Seattle)
- Toastmi (Seattle and Tacoma)
- Tamarind Tree (Seattle)
- Burnett’s Bar (340 Burnett Ave S, Renton, WA 98057)
- Coffeeholic (Vietnamese coffee, Seattle and Bellevue)
- Aroom (Vietnamese coffee, Seattle)