Whether she’s in Cambodia, Paris, or her adopted home of Austin, Texas, Deana Saukam is always looking for her next meal. As the PR & Marketing Director of Qui restaurant and brainchild behind the popular food blogging Instagram account @faimfatale, you can imagine Deana has her finger on the pulse of culinary trends taking off at home and beyond.
We spoke to the avid traveller and foodie about her mom’s home-made Cambodian food, her love of noodles and dumplings, and where to get the best bites in Austin.
You just relocated from Austin to Paris. What was the motivation for the move?
Well, I’m still splitting my time between Austin and Paris when I’m not traveling, so I still consider Austin my home too. I fell in love with Paris and just never wanted to leave. I kept going back and finally I thought, let’s make a home here too. The food isn’t bad either. 😉
What were the highlights in 2015?
2015 was a crazy year. My highlights were definitely centered around all of the travel I was lucky enough to experience this past year. My favorite places I visited in 2015 are Iceland (best hot dogs in the world IMHO at Bæjarins Beztu), Italy (I could eat pasta and noodles everyday), Hong Kong (one of my favorite places in the entire world), Paris (I fell in love in and with Paris), and Bali (it’s so chill and beautiful in Bali, everyone is so friendly, and the food is delicious).
What has been your favorite meal and why?
My favorite meal ever is definitely one of my mom’s home cooked meals. She makes the best Cambodian food. My favorite dishes are Kaw Sach Chrouk (Cambodian caramelized pork), Kuyteav (rice noodle soup), and Num Banh Chok (rice noodles topped with fish curry, mint, green beans, banana flowers, and cucumbers). It’s the best and there’s no place like home.
What’s your go-to comfort food?
Noodles. Always noodles. And dumplings. All I need in life is a bowl of noodles. Bonus if there are dumplings too.
What was your experience with food growing up?
My entire family loves food and we eat a lot. Growing up, we were always talking about food, what our next meal would be (this would be a topic of conversation even during meals – what we would be eating for our next meal), and we always ate meals together. As a child, I had a great balance of Cambodian meals prepared at home and dining out at restaurants. My parents love Mexican food, so I ate a lot of fajitas, chips and salsa and sopapillas; as well as Texas BBQ, Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese. Of course, I loved burgers, pizza, hot dogs and French fries as a kid too, especially Totino’s party pizzas. Everything was pretty much centered around food at home and I grew up eating everything. I was not a picky eater.
Are there any food rules/ethos/ways of thinking about food you try to live by (maybe you’re vegetarian, you swear by one sweet/fruit a day, just try to live healthy, try to eat at home once/twice a week etc)?
I don’t really have any food rules that I live by except that I try to eat whatever I feel like whenever I want. There are times when I become obsessed with a dish or a restaurant and I will go back 5x in a row and eat the same thing until I can’t eat it anymore for a while (aka at Sap’s). Then there are times where I go on a burger kick and I am eating burgers all week without even realizing it. Sometimes I’ll crave raw foods and juices, so then I do that for a day or two. Sometimes I have cake for breakfast. I eat a lot of sushi and noodles on a regular basis.
How long had you lived in Austin. What do you love/hate about it?
I’ve lived in Austin for 15 years, ever since I moved to go to UT for college. I loved it so much that I just stayed after I graduated, and it’s been fun to watch the city grow and see the food scene evolve over the years. I love the energy and vibe in Austin. It’s chill, creative and brave – Austinites aren’t afraid to try new things. I don’t really hate anything about Austin, but I guess if I had to choose, I would say that it does get really hot and everyone has been complaining about the traffic recently, so I guess I hate the heat and traffic.
I’ve read that you’re somewhat of a taste-tester for the various restaurants. Is it possible to get sick of ramen? We doubt it…
Hahaha. I don’t think it’s possible to get sick of ramen. I could go for some ramen right now, actually…
Describe a typical night out in Austin for you.
Cocktails and champagne over dinner with friends at one of our favorite places (see below) or at a newly opened restaurant to check it out (Austin has so many new restaurants) is a pretty standard night out. If we’re not too full after dinner then we’ll usually hit up a bar for more drinks – Whisler’s is one of my favorite bars on the East side – and if we’re really feeling up for it and I can convince/drag everyone to go, then we’ll go karaoke at one of the Asian karaoke places up north where we can get a private room and sing until they kick us out. Sundays are reserved for pizza and champagne.
Finally, what are your favorite restaurants, bars and cafes in Austin?