There’s not a whole lotta Lao food in Minneapolis and St. Paul right now. Eric Phothisanh and Sabrina Boualaphanh are trying to change that.
Less than a year after their first-ever Soul Lao pop-up, the husband-wife team is getting ready to serve the country’s cuisine out of a food truck focused on farm-fresh ingredients.
“We want to pump out as much Lao food as we can … and try to bring more people to the culture,” Phothisanh says. “There’s so many more people looking for this kind of food.”
Phothisanh and Boualaphanh grew up right here -- in south Minneapolis and Maple Grove, respectively -- but it wasn’t until leaving the Twin Cities to help Phothisanh’s father run a Thai restaurant in Washington state that they realized this was what they wanted to do.
The more time they spent out West, the more uninspired they felt. But after taking a few months to travel and cook abroad, they had a realization: It wasn’t that they didn’t want to cook anymore, it was that they didn’t want to cook Thai food anymore. Phothisanh explains that they’re both 100 percent Lao -- and they weren’t being true to themselves. It was in cooking Laotian food that they found their inspiration again.
The forthcoming Soul Lao food truck will be a farm-to-table operation, and Phothisanh’s plan is to use local, fresh meats and veggies. Now that they’ve returned home after a few years away and had a handful of pop-ups -- and oh yeah, a baby -- they’re trying to educate their clients, themselves, and their daughter about ethical sourcing and healthy living.
On the menu, expect savory rotisserie chicken with seasonal sides -- sticky rice, fried eggs -- along with traditional Laotian soups and noodle dishes that are Boualaphanh’s specialty. There will also be cajun-style crawfish and seafood prepared by a friend and partner.
Phothisanh sees Soul Lao as more than just a place to grab a quick bite during your lunch hour. In their travels, he says he and Boualaphanh saw food trucks that acted as community hubs, that curated their own events and collaborated with artists and entertainers.
Soul Lao will do the same: “We want to give a platform for young entrepreneurs.” That means live graffiti art, pop-up events with podcasters, and musical performances in the lots where the truck sets up shop.
“We feel like food and hip hop -- food and music in general -- it hits notes for people,” Phothisanh says. “It brings people out.”
He anticipates the truck will be done by the end of the month, and it’ll start hitting streets shortly thereafter.