Vietnamese dishes add new dimension to Savannakhet cuisine
Savannakhet province is well known for its special dishes, inclu ding dried beef and sausage, as well as liver beef sausage and other tasty items. These are the things that people always buy to take home as gifts when visiting the province.
As the largest province in Laos, Savannakhet is of course not only home to Lao people; there is a sizeable Lao-Vietnamese community and a number of Vietnamese nationals also live there.
|A dish served up at the Chindavone Vietnamese restaurant (QuanAn Hue in Vietnamese).
This has meant that Vietnamese restaurants have sprung up in several areas and the food they serve has developed a strong following among visitors to the province.
I recently enjoyed my third visit to a small Vietnamese restaurant on Oudomsinh Road in Nalao village, Kaysone Phomvihane district. I now understand why the food served here is so popular and on each visit I've really enjoyed the tasty dishes I've eaten.
As a journalist, I decided to find out how these small businesses had developed and become so successful.
The Chindavone Vietnamese restaurant, called QuanAn Hue in Vietnamese, serves some of the best food in Savannakhet province. It is small family business run by Lao-Vietnamese who have been living in the province for a long time. The style and taste of the food is truly Vietnamese and is a firm favourite among local people and visitors.
In the opinion of this satisfied diner, what makes the food so special is that only the freshest ingredients are used. The dishes are made from genuine Vietnamese ingredients and are served up as soon as they are cooked.
Restaurant owner Mr Hong told Vientiane Times they cook the food when guests arrive and serve them immediately after the dishes have been prepared. “All the food is served hot at the table which is something customers really appreciate.”
“We never put cooked food in the refrigerator and reheat it for customers, everything is cooked fresh; that's the reason why we never know just when we'll close in the afternoon or at night,” he said.
A customer from nearby Xayaphoum village, Mr Toon Sengtianthre, said the food was very similar to that of Hue province in central Vietnam. He and his family usually come to the restaurant for lunch and dinner.
“If you're late you won't get a table at lunch or dinner; I have to call and reserve a table if I have guests coming to Savannakhet. I can say that the Vietnamese food they serve here is completely different to other places in Savannakhet,” he added.
Mr Hong's family has been running the business for over 20 years but they don't want to turn it into a big restaurant as they want to keep it a family business. There are not more than 10 tables that can each seat four people, where Mr Hong, who is one the chefs, personally serves food and drinks to customers.
There are only four chefs and waiters and Mr Hong apologised that service might sometimes be slow but explained that the end result was worth the wait.
The main Vietnamese foods are boiled pork served with a special sauce like mam tom (fermented shrimp paste), braised claypot fish, and the special yum kai , which is one of the most popular items on the menu consisting of boiled chicken cooked with herbs and black pepper.
These three dishes are ordered by almost every customer as no one wants to miss out on these perennial favourites.
“Yes, our restaurant is always full at lunch time and dinner and most of our customers are local officials, businesspeople, and visitors. If you ask me whether I want to expand – well, it's something I'm still thinking about,” Mr Hong said.
Savannakhet is without doubt a top choice to experience the best of Lao and Vietnamese cuisine and also get a taste of the culture of the two countries.
By Souknilundon Southivongnorath
(Latest Update December 31, 2016)