Thai and Indian chefs give cooking demonstrations at Vegfest

By Amanda Strombom
For Northwest Asian Weekly

Esther Park-Hwang will be one of the speaker at Vegfest. (Photo by Rozarii Lynch )

Asian chefs are among the many chefs featured at this year’s Vegfest. The event is to be held on April 10 and 11 at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. Vegfest is the biggest vegetarian food festival in the United States and features more than 500 different kinds of dishes. The event is ideal for people who have questions about how to improve their diet, what to buy, and how to cook it.

Pranee Halvorsen is one of the Asian chefs featured at Vegfest this year. She grew up in Thailand and like most kids of her generation, helped out by doing chores in the kitchen. At age 12, she became the substitute cook for her house.

When Halvorsen moved to Seattle, she brought along a mortar and pestle, and she filled her kitchen with Thai herbs, spices, and cooking equipment. She thinks that the best way to enjoy eating and cooking Thai food is to cook and share it with others.

Halvorsen will be giving a demonstration of Thai cooking at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 11.

Another chef that is being featured is Archana Verma, who is excited about making Indian food easy to cook, fast, and accessible. Both Halvorsen and Verma are part of the PCC Cooks program, organized by PCC Natural Markets.

Chef Pranee Halvorsen (Photo by Rozarii Lynch)

In addition to cooking demonstrations, there will also be many free talks by respected doctors and dietitians on the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Speakers this year include medical doctors such as Chan Hwang and Esther Park-Hwang. Hwang serves as a pain clinic physician consultant for United Back Care Inc. in Puyallup. Park-Hwang is on the faculty of the Tacoma Family Medicine Residency program and is actively involved in the obstetrics and gynecology portion of resident training. After their talks, the speakers will be available to answer questions.

As always, Asian food is prominently featured at Vegfest. Sunrice, a small Korean restaurant in Seattle, will be serving up samples of its delicious tofu meals. Another tofu company, Morinaga Nutritional Foods Inc., of Torrance, Calif., maker of Mori-Nu tofu, will be providing samples and giving away free packs of their tofu and flavoring packets.

Other companies include Chao Dao, a specialized iced tea company owned and operated by a Thai American, Ghim-Sim Chua, and Tasty Eats, a soy jerky company founded by Marina Leong.

Vegfest also features the biggest of all vegetarian bookstore. Two special books are featured at this year’s Vegfest. Vegetarian Pacific Northwest is a guidebook to vegetarian-friendly restaurants and natural food stores in the Washington and Oregon areas. The Vegetarian Solution, written by Stewart Rose, local author and vice president of Vegetarians of Washington, shows how food choices have a huge impact on health and the environment.

In the special kids’ section, children will be able to try healthy foods. Clowns will be present to help educate and entertain. There’s even an area set aside for nursing mothers to feed when necessary. ♦

Vegfest takes place April 10 and 11 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. Admission is $8, and kids 12 and under can come for free. Tickets are available at the door. For more information about Vegfest, visit or call 206-706-2635.

Amanda Stromberg can be reached at

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