(CNN) — As anyone who’s visited Thailand knows, food is a key part of the experience.
Whether you’re street side in Chiang Mai slurping back a bowl of khao soi noodles or enjoying a Michelin-starred Thai meal in a high-end Bangkok restaurant, the memories of those powerful, balanced flavors stay with you long after you’ve left the country.
Vilailuck “Pepper” Teigen knows this all too well. Mother of model, TV personality and entrepreneur Chrissy Teigen, Pepper emigrated to Utah from Thailand’s northeast Isaan region in the early 1980s.
For years, she says she tried to replicate the flavors of home, struggling to find ingredients in the small American town she lived in.
“When I had Chrissy as a baby I remember going to a little market,” she tells CNN during a recent video interview.
“I was the only Asian in that little town — Delta, Utah — where Chrissy was born and I requested ‘Can you bring in bean sprouts and lemon grass please?’ And they did. But other than that, I had to travel 100-200 miles just to get gaprao (Thai basil).”
Today, Pepper lives in Los Angeles with Chrissy, son-in-law John Legend and their two kids, Luna and Miles…