Chefs Ploypailin Sakornsin and Jeremy Kuo fell in love while working in the kitchen of SingleThread Farm-Restaurant-Inn, a three Michelin-starred restaurant with five guest rooms in Healdsburg.
“We were secretly dating, but the secret didn’t work,” said Sakornsin, 30, who grew up in Bangkok and did her externship at SingleThread while studying at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York.
The couple got married in October 2019. After graduating, she took a job baking for Quail & Condor Bakery in Healdsburg, while Kuo continued working for SingleThread. In 2021, they took a leap of faith and started serving the street food of their homelands, Thailand and Taiwan, at various pop-ups at restaurants, bars, wineries and farmers markets.
Dubbed Sangsan Healdsburg, their pop-up business serves Thai-inspired dishes ranging from a Larb Salmon Tartare and Yum Pork Salad to Grilled Turmeric Chicken with Tamarind Sauce. Sangsan is a Thai word that means “to celebrate” or “to hang out.”
“When we were planning our concept, we wanted a place where you’d want to go hang out with friends and family,” Sakornsin said. “Having that vibe of not just eating but enjoying each other’s company is what we’re looking for.”
Kuo, who had worked at SingleThread for the past five years, recently left his job there as junior sous chef to provide full-time help for his wife and the growing demand for Sangsan’s pop-ups and catering.
The 34-year-old chef was born in Los Angeles, but he moved back to Taiwan with his family for most of his childhood. He returned to the States to attend high school in Orange County and studied environmental science at UC Santa Cruz while working as a technician in the student pharmacy. All the while, he found himself constantly cooking for his boss, roommates and friends.
“I never had the courage to go into cooking until I was 29 or 30,” he said. “I went to Napa Valley College Cooking School in St. Helena for close to two years, and I was the first extern at SingleThread.”
Sakornsin has a similar story. She studied business and finance in college, then worked in a bank for two years. Itching for a new challenge, she opened a small sushi kiosk with a trained chef.
“I grew up in a foodie family,” she said. “My mom loved to cook food, and my dad loved to eat her food and my grandma had a restaurant.”
When her sushi chef backed out of the business, Sakornsin decided it was time to change careers.
“It took some time to convince my family to let me study cooking,” she said. She finally moved to the States in February 2018 to attend the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park and graduated two years later.
The couple credits SingleThread Chef/owner Kyle Connaughton with planting the seed for launching their own business, which marries the complex flavors and textures of Thai food with the influences of Kuo’s Taiwanese childhood.
“Last year at SingleThread, we had to do takeout, so Chef Kyle gave us the chance to do Thai food to go,” Sakornsin said. “The people really loved it.”
Sangsan has hosted pop-up dinners at Miracle Plum Kitchen in Santa Rosa. They also have had occasional pop-ups at Lo & Behold Bar & Kitchen and Quail & Condor bakery and its sister sandwich shop, Troubadour, all in Healdsburg. But they really attracted attention while doing a pop-up at the Lioco Wine tasting room in Healdsburg
“That’s where we built a connection with the locals,” Kuo said of Lioco. “A lot of people walking past with their dogs became our customers.”
Now, with the summer season in full swing, the couple can be found cooking fragrant Asian fare at the Healdsburg Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and at Healdsburg’s popular Tuesday on the Plaza concert series in the evenings.
“We’re targeting Tuesdays because most restaurants are not open that night,” Kuo said. “The whole idea is to try to be reasonably priced for the community.”
Their menu choices vary by season, but their pop-up prices have ranged from $14 for Shrimp and Pork Relish with Rice Cake to $38 for a whole seabass, which can feed up to four people.