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Vientiane's oldest eatery

Update: January, 05/2015 - 16:54
Taste of tradition: Tucked under a large tree, 20-year-old Soukvimam offers diners authentic Laos food.

Soukvimarn Original Lao Food

How to get there: The restaurant is located at the end of an unpaved lane near That Dam stupa, behind That Dam Wine House. A two-minute walk up the lane will bring you to a dead end and on your right you'll see the house of culinary delights.

Tel.: +856-2121-4441, mobile +856-20-5567-9779

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There's one unpretentious restaurant in Vientiane that has been serving up traditional Lao cuisine for more than 20 years, giving diners the chance to sample authentic local dishes.

Soukvimarn Original Lao Food is arguably the oldest family-run restaurant in the capital. The kitchen can turn out more than 50 dishes, offering appetising plates of food prepared in a variety of ways – grilled, fried, steamed, or boiled.

Grandmother Khamxao Southivongnorath said she wanted to provide her customers with genuine Lao food, especially overseas visitors, and so her dream of running a family restaurant took root.

The restaurant is in no way fancy; it's just like a family dining room with seven or eight tables serving about 30-40 people at each sitting. But luxury is definitely not missing from the food, because Grandma Khamxao makes sure all the fresh meat and vegetables come from the wild.

She said the restaurant didn't buy fish, chickens, frogs or other meat from a farm, but sourced it directly from nature.

"If we use meat from a farm, it's not traditional Lao food because everything our grandparents ate came straight from the wild," she explained.

It's difficult to choose a handful of dishes from such a large menu, but sin thoup (grilled beef), ork larm (traditional Luang Prabang soup), larp pa tong (creamy fish), mok khamnarb linmay (grilled minced pork and herbs in banana leaves), kaeng normai (bamboo shoot soup), and mok pa (steamed fish in banana leaves) are the most popular.

The fascination of this unassuming eatery lies in its determination to stick with tradition.

Grandma Khamxao said the restaurant was small-scale and that was how she wanted it because she loves cooking and wants to preserve the true taste of Lao food and cooking methods for younger generations.

"We've cooked for high-ranking officials from Laos and other countries in the region and that made me very proud. I can't give you the name of any of these dignitaries but I can tell you they were their nations' leaders," she said.

Soukvimarn Original Lao Food is now looking at how it can reinvent itself and its business plan, so that it can provide a standard of service expected of a nation that is a member of the Asean Economic Community, which will come into being in 2015.

But Grandmother Khamxao's primary goal remains the same – to cook Lao food for people from around the world, and to ensure each dish is genuinely Lao down to the last root, shoot and herb.

"Many people have asked me why I don't expand the restaurant. The answer is that I don't have the energy, but of course my children can grow the business based on the same ideals – to promote Lao food and provide a taste of Lao culture at the same time." Vientiane Times

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