Since then, her Instagram has become a constant stream of beautifully photographed Lao dishes, each accompanied by an explanation or history of the dish. In addition to educating her followers about the culture, social media offers a way to visually represent her family’s food.
“It’s about that presentation,” she says. “What we normally eat at home is very simple and can’t be as beautiful as what you see in food TV or magazines, but it’s a food you’re familiar with.”
By March 2019, Snoukphonh’s Instagram had gained enough momentum that her cooking could step into the real world. This was around the time when Chanthalansy, an old family friend who had been hosting pop-ups at Oxtail Pho, reached out for a Lao food collaboration.
“The idea of our pop-up was to push forward Lao food as the title cuisine, in that it wasn’t going to be Thai-Lao, fusion, Westernized, or anything like that,” says Snoukphonh. “For us, it was about which signature dishes do we think of when we think about Lao cuisine. We wanted to give people the opportunity to taste it as we have at home, and what we brought to the popup was really honouring all those flavours.”
In March 2019, Snoukphonh and Chanthalansy hosted their first popup, “Taste of the Mekong,” at Oxtail Pho. As Canada’s first Lao food pop-up event, it wasn’t easy for the two to create a menu that could adequately contain all the flavours they wanted to introduce to Toronto. In the end, they went with an 8- to 10-course menu so that diners could have as much of a full Lao experience as possible.
“The energy in the room in both seatings was electric,” Chanthalansy recalls. “It was a constant buzz of happiness. It was crazy.”
Before this pop-up, Chanthalansy had also been sharing his own Lao cooking on Instagram. In late 2019, he started Lao Supper Club and invited several of his followers at a time to try his authentic Lao dishes.