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Hidden family food favourites at Vientiane

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Pad Thai is a “must have” for any visitors to Vientiane Restaurant on Marion Street.

PHOTO BY KATHRYNE GRISIM Enlarge Image

Pad Thai is a “must have” for any visitors to Vientiane Restaurant on Marion Street. Photo Store

Even though I have a food-centric career, I am always amazed and surprised by all the little family places that grace Winnipeg’s neighbourhoods.

I had a hankering for Thai food recently and discovered Vientiane Restaurant at 208 Marion St. in St. Boniface.  

The charming little place shares the strip mall with Lovey’s BBQ, which is another place I have yet to try. The dining room has been painted a passionate red which is a strategic choice, as red enhances human metabolism, thereby stimulating our appetites.

Tom Kha Gai is one of my favourite dishes from Thailand and when translated simply means: Thai Chicken Soup, but oh, this is no ordinary chicken soup. The fresh tastes of lime and cilantro are fused with chicken, veggies and coconut milk, resulting in a balance of spicy, salty, sweet and sour! I have tried to concoct this soup at home but find that I do not always have the essential ingredients of galangal and lemongrass in the fridge.

A mango salad complemented the complex soup tastes. Shredded mango is doused in lime juice and tossed with chilies and then garnished with peanuts and dried shrimp. All of this is placed on an enormous, frilly lettuce leaf.

Pad Thai is another of our "must haves" and the version served at Vientiane is just slightly different than any I have tasted before. I understand that there are as many versions of this recipe as there are Thai chefs.  Pad Thai is the assembly of noodles, garlic, peanuts, chilies and bean sprouts and is the country’s national dish. The prime minister of Thailand made this street food popular during the late 1930s as part of his campaign to reduce domestic rice consumption and increase nationalism. Who knew?

The restaurant has been open for four years and is owned by Xuejun Xia and his wife. On this day, he was behind the counter and looked as busy as an air traffic controller, answering the phone and controlling the flow of guests in and out of his restaurant.  I asked him if he was happy with his business and he gave me a smiling shrug.

Kathryne Grisim’s foodmusings.ca blog was named best local blog in Uptown Magazine’s Best of Winnipeg readers’ poll.

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