This chef will amp up your game snacks
Sam Fore founded Tuk Tuk, a mobile Sri Lankan-inspired pop-up restaurant. She also thinks your gaming cuisine needs a glow up. Here's how.
I feel like this should almost come with a disclaimer. No, I did not invent Sam Fore specifically for this article, but your suspicions are forgiven.
“The concept for my Tuk Tuk pop up shops actually started in a tent outside an arcade bar in Lexington, Ky.,” says Fore. “And I was a huge Nintendo nerd growing up.”
Yes, that’s right: Fore is a chef and a gamer. There is literally no better person on earth to go to for help in powering up game-time snacking.
After attending school in Boston, Fore got her start…developing websites for restaurants. Not the typical way to get one’s foot in the door, for sure, but meeting and working with some of the city’s top chefs reaffirmed her own—mostly self-taught—culinary instincts and a new career path was formed.
“Yeah, I just picked it up,” says Fore. “My mom is an excellent cook and an excellent hostess—growing up in South Asian household in an immigrant community, we're always getting together as much as we can. So that requires a certain level of hospitality and that kind of feeds into what I do. I'm mostly self-taught like my mom, and I've been picking up knowledge as I've been jumping from kitchen to kitchen over the last couple of years.”
Then, that fateful night in Lexington, it all came together.
“We started twisting up Sri Lankan classics with southern classics. For example, my fried chicken brine has everything that a chicken curry would—I've got cumin, coriander, curry leaf, cinnamon, chili pepper, all of that, but with buttermilk,” says Fore. “When we do shrimp and grits, it's a shrimp curry over coconut grits. It's very similar to a milk rice dish that is extremely popular in Sri Lanka, with a little twist. It lets me share flavors that I grew up with and make it approachable. I call it giving people a vehicle into a new culture.”
The result was Tuk Tuk, so named because the staff are a mobile kitchen, popping up at bars, breweries, and festivals across the U.S.
As for the Nintendo nerdery? It, too, has evolved over the years.
“When we were growing up, I was playing Super Mario as much as possible,” say Fore. “I didn’t play much in high school, but then after college I started picking it up again—pretty much the only game that got my attention was Final Fantasy VII, and I realized I was really into RPGs! It’s a total nerd thing for me, but I love it. I’m currently finishing Final Fantasy XVI.”
She also often has to take her gaming on the go, getting her fix with mobile games. (“Like the Candy Crushes of the world!” she exclaims.)
Now, without further ado, Fore’s tips for upgrading your snack game…for when you game.
Replace dry tortilla chips with your own customized trail mix
“I try to put together my own blend, and so that kind of makes it feel more special and a little bit more tailored to me, because it's everything that I like,” Fore says. “I like peanut butter M&Ms and cashews, and Craisins—I don't have to eat around whatever I'm not feeling that day in a pre-made mix. It's also a good way to incorporate dried fruit, because there's a lot of really good fruit. I love the snack aisle at Trader Joe's because it's got all sorts of staples, between almonds and lightly salted cashews and roasted pistachios and stuff. But they've also got really cool flavors—you can get the Chili Lime Cashews, which are really nice and zingy and spicy, or you can get dried Fuji apple chips and mix that up into something. And it all keeps well.”
Don’t settle for regular old chips
“Chips aren't awesome as a full meal source—if that's the only thing you're eating, we’ve got to have a talk—but occasionally, I love a Cool Ranch Dorito, too,” she says. “I love putting that with whatever weird flavor combinations I can find. For example, I found a very strange flavor combination one day people think is crazy but actually works. I do a really onion-y, lime-y tuna salad—just a tiny bit of mayo, salt and pepper, really simple—and I eat it with nacho cheese Doritos. It’s really good. There's also so many cool hummus and stuff like that out there too now, that you're not limited to just shitty chips and salsa. You can really amp it up.”
Do more with instant ramen
“There are so many good ways to dress up ramen to make it a little bit better for you, between adding some frozen vegetables to your broth or adding a little bit of grilled chicken from the night before,” she says. “Maybe you have some leftover rotisserie chicken in your fridge? Just using some of that makes it a complete meal as opposed to just a salt-and-starch bomb.”
Invest in more rotisserie chicken and other easy meal-starters
“They're great. There is no reason for me to spend hours roasting a chicken when I can get a free-range organic one from the store for seven bucks. They’re an easy meal starter,” she says. “I also like to keep spinach in my fridge, because it's both salad and you can add it to a quick stir fry. I can throw it in the two little pasta sauce to make a little bit healthier. It's an easy add-in without a takeaway on flavor or anything like that.”
Don’t just reach for a can of soda—mix and match to make better drinks
“If you have store-bought lemonade in your fridge, maybe add a little grenadine syrup and sparkling water to make it more of a spritzer,” Fore says. “If you have a bunch of different fruit juices in the fridge, you could add a bit of club soda to a juice mix. If I've got orange and pineapple juice, I'm going to add some seltzer to that and then maybe a couple pieces of fruit or something like that to make it fancy! And, of course, there's nothing that says there's anything wrong with having a fancy drink with your video game. I used to have a glass of wine when I played Dragon Age.”
Find a good tool and stick with it
“It’s not necessary to have every single pot in the realm, but it is useful to have a really handy, all-in-one solution that you could sauté in, maybe do a slight boil in, a shallow fry in—something that's multipurpose,” she says. “If it's a really solid, basic piece of cookware or equipment, it's generally a workhorse that can get a lot done. Don’t overcomplicate your kitchen.”
Get yourself some workhorse spices, too
“Obviously, you want a good salt and pepper. Everyone says that all pepper is the same. That's not true. A good fresh cracked pepper that's a proper peppercorn will really add a lot to a dish. I like to have flaky salt because I just like the little extra crunch. Even if it's just a buttery noodle, you've got a little crunch of salt, maybe a couple of chives.
I also like to have a good hot pepper. For some folks, it's crushed chili flakes. For me, I like to have a little bit of Kashmiri chili because the color is really nice, and the spice is a little bit sweet, but not overwhelming. I have a collection with Spicewalla, and those are really basic curry powders that can amp up anything. I recommend looking for chef-selected and curated blends because they've done a lot of the hard work of figuring out the balance of how everything should be for you. So a good set of spices or a good set of chef blends is a really easy way to dip your toe into more advanced flavors than the basics.”
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