Narumol "Nong" Poonsukwattana and Chopped host Ted Allen
Narumol "Nong" Poonsukwattana and Chopped host Ted Allen

I'm calling it here and now: I wouldn't want to face Narumol "Nong" Poonsukwattana in a food fight to the finish on Chopped.

For me, Chopped is the Food Network's most fun, demanding, think-on-your-feet food show, officiated by knowledgeable judges who act as if each dish was on trial at Nuremberg.

But Nong is not easily intimidated. She's bootstrapped her way to the top of Portland's food cart scene—her cooking savvy stretches way beyond khao man gai, her one-dish wonder—and not least, she's a humble hero who simply melts hearts. Hard to imagine even a tough guy judge like Scott "I TOLD YOU I HATE RAW ONIONS!" Conant won't feel the Nong pull.

So set your recorders and gather your food-watching posse: Chopped's "Food Truck Fight" airs at 10 pm* on Tuesday, August 19, pitting Nong against other national food-cart pros in an elimination battle raging over three courses.

What's tricky is the ingredients. Each course is a surprise basket of incomprehensible ingredients that must be morphed on the spot into a dish judged on taste, creativity, and presentation. According to the Food Network, round one (appetizers) involves a cheap, sweet treat and a fine-dining indulgence and round two features a pork delicacy and a Mexican staple. In the final dessert round, a potential confrontation emerges over a key piece of equipment.

Judges are Conant, Amanda Freitag, and Peter Oleyer, Brooklyn chef and co-owner of New York  food cart-restaurant empire, Calexico.

I'm putting my money on Nong. Stay tuned.

*Be sure to double check the Food Network schedule as the date draws near, as air times are subject to shuffles.

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