In Asian countries such as Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, mornings start at 3:30 a.m. People wake up and walk miles to the nearest market to purchase their day’s meals. They pick out fresh herbs and meats to bring home for their families.
The same tradition has carried over to restaurants near 34th Street and National Avenue in Silver City. Restaurant owners get up early every day and bring fresh ingredients back to their kitchens to prepare and serve to their customers.
George Chai, owner of Thai Bar-B-Que, 3417 W. National Ave, was born in Thailand. He came to the United States in 1984 and opened his restaurant in 2007, after working for his sister at the Asian International Market, 3401 W. National Ave., a local grocery store selling Asian products. He thought most people had no time to cook Asian food, and decided to open the restaurant so they could enjoy authentic Thai food. Chai said he puts quality over cost.
“I have to find special herbs here,” said Chai. He spends a lot of time and money making sure his food is fresh. He gets his ingredients from Chicago and the Asian International Market.
He said in Thailand, people eat only fresh food. Herbs such as basil, coriander and mint can be found in his pho, a traditional Asian soup that originated in Vietnam.
Thai Bar-B-Que is footsteps away from two other Asian restaurants: Vientiane Noodle Shop, 3422 W. National Ave, and Bamboo Restaurant, 3427 W. National Ave. All three restaurants are participating in the annual Phobruary event, offering pho for $5 per bowl Monday through Friday during February.
Thomg Ksoun is celebrating the 20th year of owning Vientiane Noodle Shop. Born in Laos, Ksoun said she “grew up taught to be a housewife, to cook, to clean.
“We learn that the man is the leader of the house,” she said.
Since she came to the U.S. in 1981 her role has changed. Ksoun is the one making decisions every day about the success of the restaurant she created and has sustained.
“If the customer likes my food, I will go home and sleep happy with a smile on my face,” said Ksoun. She also welcomes criticism, because it helps improve the restaurant.
Toy Schuelke, who was born in Laos and works at the Asian International Market, said she hopes people come to Vientiane to try pho this month, because it is the restaurant’s way of sharing the Laotian culture with the community.
Ksoun goes to the market every day to pick up fresh ingredients for the restaurant. Although they are not related, Schuelke refers to Thomg Ksoun as “grandma.” “We’ve been seeing each other every day for 12 years,” said Schuelke. “Anytime she needs help, I will always help her.”
About 9 percent of Silver City’s residents are Asian-American. The majority of people in the neighborhood are Hispanic.
Both Ksoun and Chai said they hope to expand their restaurants in the future, offering delivery and catering.
Chai said he wants to appeal to people of all nationalities and to help them understand the variety of Asian food offered at restaurants on National Avenue.