Keng Dechawuth shares recipes, stories from his Puposky Pearl mushroom farm near Bemidji

samples of a dish
Samples of Keng Dechawuth's 'Spicy Mushroom Laab.'
Megan Burks | MPR News

Appetites traveled to Bemidji, Minn., to meet Keng Dechawuth. He's the owner of Tara Thai. He's also an electrical engineer by training, a budding mushroom farmer and a serial entrepreneur.

This spring he plans to open Kin Asian Market in Bemidji to help source his local business, teach cooking classes and sell his harvested mushrooms. 

The produce used in his restaurants comes from his mushroom farm Puposky Pearl north of Bemidji.

two men smile
Appetites visited Bemidji. Tom Crann talked with restaurateur Keng Dechawuth to discover how he “pays it forward” to his workers.
Megan Burks | MPR News

Dechawuth brought samples of one of his Thai staple dishes — spicy mushroom laab — to share. He talked about the positive meaning of the word laab in different parts of Thailand and India. “We make this dish when we have a special occasion, so it has a good meaning of the food,” Dechawuth said.

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He also highlighted the sweetness, tanginess and umami components of the dish, which in combination make the dish more special. “That’s all about Thai flavors.”

Click play on the audio player above to listen to the full conversation and see Keng’s recipe below.

Spicy mushroom laab, a cold salad 

Serves four  


½ pound fresh blue oyster mushrooms, sliced  

½ cup fresh mint, julienned   

¼ cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped  

¼ cup scallions, white and green parts, diced 

½ cup red onion, diced 


4 tablespoons fish sauce/mushroom soy sauce   

8 tablespoons lime juice   

2 teaspoons palm sugar   

2 teaspoons cane sugar   

2 tablespoons mushroom powder, available on Amazon or at Trader Joe’s 

2 tablespoons roasted rice powder (JHC is a brand of roasted rice powder, available to order online, cornstarch can be substituted) 

2 tablespoons Thai chili flakes, available on Amazon   


Combine the mushrooms, mint, cilantro, scallions and red onion in a medium size bowl and toss to combine. 

Whisk together all of the salad ingredients in a medium-size bowl until smooth. 

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the sauce into the salad ingredients until thoroughly incorporated.  

Cover and refrigerate for up to two hours. 

Before serving, gently fold the salad again with a rubber spatula. 

Spoon into individual serving bowls. 

a man shows a dish of food
Keng Dechawuth, owner of Tara Thai Bemidji shows one of his signature dishes: spicy mushroom laab.
Megan Burks | MPR News

Editor’s note: This episode is from the MPR Connect “Appetites in Greater Minnesota” event held on May 25. The episode aired on All Things Considered on May 31.