7. Lao Pho ເຝີ່ລາວ

  MEE MAMA

There’s a rite of passage that happens to Lao kids when they eat pho for the first time with their Vietnamese friends: they reach for the sugar and everyone else (not Laotian) is immediately confused. What makes our pho different from the original bowls served in Hanoi or Saigon is not just what’s inside of it, but what’s on the table with it. To start, Lao pho is a foundation of one mainly important ingredient - beef. This explains why Lao pho is sometimes just called Lao beef noodle soup. Whether beef bone, beef chuck or beef brisket, it’s pretty beefy, the broth itself takes on a darker brown hue and can even be sweet. Next are our condiments which includes shrimp paste, celery, raw Thai chilis, lime, fried garlic and onions, Sriracha and of course, sugar - an absolute must with Lao pho.

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Also, don’t be surprised if you find a jar of instant beef flavor paste sitting next to your bowl, we just really like that beefy flavor. And just like each diner seasons their own bowls differently, so would chefs with their stockpots - onions, ginger, star anise, celery, meatballs, and ground pork are some of the other ingredients found in a Lao pho broth, which by the way is pronounced feur. Try that with your Viet friends.

 

8. American Noodles ສຸບອາເມລິກາ

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You may be wondering why such a basic-looking, obviously American soup made it on our list with the other favorite Lao noodles. As an organization that highlights the stories of Lao American refugees, it was important for us to not only show the recipes carried from the old homeland to the new, but the ones learned here too. While adapting to an American lifestyle, our immigrant parents and grandparents had to make use of the ingredients given to them. Whether it was received though welfare allowance, or bought with food stamps, donations from food drives, or gifted from a nice neighbor, a pack of free noodles was a pack of free noodles. Maybe it was elbow macaroni, or twisted egg noodles, or bowtie pasta, or those tri-colored ones. Maybe it had carrots and celery, maybe it was just ground pork or leftover chicken. Maybe our families ate this because that’s all they had until payday or when the next benefits kicked in. Or maybe they cooked this in zealous attempts to prove to their kids that they too were just as American. Whatever their reasons, they taught us in their resilient, refugee ways not to waste food, and that the most important tradition was feeding your family. To not include a “sup Amaygah” on the table would make this meal incomplete.

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