Saigoneer

Back Eat & Drink » Food Culture » Giò Lụa Fit for a Kingdom: How Thailand Fell in Love With Vietnamese Ham

Giò Lụa Fit for a Kingdom: How Thailand Fell in Love With Vietnamese Ham

Instead of sunny Saigon, I found myself yet again in relentlessly sunny Bangkok. I had a convenient excuse though: attending a close friend’s wedding.

With a couple of days on hand, and a few cans of Singha and Chang from 7-Eleven stocked in the fridge to avoid incurring additional room charges, I found myself micro-scrolling through Google Maps for clues using ‘Search this area’ and a Google-translated Thai word for ‘Vietnamese Food’ as guides. I was worried about the difficulty, if it's even possible, to ascertain whether a Vietnamese eatery was actually owned by Vietnamese-Thais.

Chi Dong — whom I met last year at Baan Yuan, a Vietnamese market at Soi Samsen 13 — was ready to have me as her guest over a meal of authentic bánh xèo. “Are they Vietnamese?” I asked her about a local restaurant that serves Vietnamese food. “They are Thais, but still very good!” she said. Nonetheless, I felt slightly disappointed.

Moo Yor Jampathonga makes their own giò lụa and chả quế, two staples one can find on every plate of bánh cuốn.

The cozy dining area of the eatery is reminiscent of casual restaurants in any Vietnam city.

I decided to abort the mission and try my luck at a place not too far off from where we started, Moo Yor Jampathonga, which specializes in Vietnamese ham. Known as moo yor in Thai, the term is a combination of the word moo, meaning pork, and the word giò which means ham in Vietnamese. Giò lụa, or chả lụa in southern Vietnam, is a type of sausage made of pork paste and light spices.

My initial impression at Baan Yuan was quite straightforward; the Thais adore this stuff. They put it in everything, even pungent Thai salads and bánh canh.

My foreignness was obvious on arrival. I had no idea whether I should park the bike on the pavement or on the streets. It wasn’t Vietnam, so I didn't want to commit any social or traffic faux pas. A kind man approached me and asked if I needed help.

“Is this place Moo Yor Jampathong?” I asked in English. “Yes, yes. Do you want to eat something?” he replied.

“Does anyone speak Vietnamese here?” I questioned, praying very hard.

Em nói được tiếng Việt Nam phải không?” one woman said, perhaps answering my prayers.

Madam Vinh (right) and her daughter-in-law Naam (left) run a restaurant in Bangkok that specializes in dishes containing giò lụa.

That was Madam Vinh’s first sentence of Vietnamese to me. I’d reckon she doesn’t speak much of it these days. Born in Thailand with ancestors from Ha Tĩnh Province, the family is now in their third generation of making Vietnamese pork rolls, after her father begin the business 40 years ago. Her daughter-in-law, Suyamanee, who people know by her nickname Naam, meaning water in Thai, runs the show these days, while Vinh helps out on an almost daily basis. They informed me that there are possibly only three or four places remaining that still make authentic pork rolls in the city.

This was definitely a place where my personal Vietnamese food boundaries were challenged. Phở topped with generous slices of giò lụa. Pad thai with giò lụa. I was half-expecting a tom yam soup covered in diced giò lụa.

Pak mor luy naam, meaning bánh cuốn lội nước in Vietnamese, is Moo Yor Jampathong's own invention: rice dumplings served in a bowl of broth that straddles the line between phở and hủ tiếu.

Apart from pak mor luy naam, diners can enjoy giò lụa in more others ways, such as in a plate of conventional bánh cuốn or in a bowl of phở giò lụa.

Beyond the curiosities, what struck me, and ultimately touched my heart and taste buds, was something that could easily pass as ‘natively’ Vietnamese, but instead lived in the land of a thousand smiles: bánh cuốn served in Thai-style phở broth and topped with giò lụa, pork floss and barbecued pork.

“We call this pak mor luy naam in Thai,” Vinh explained, the name translating directly to dumplings wading in water.

Naam and her son, Ice, created this menu item, combining the food cultures of both countries. Apart from this incredible interpretation, Moo Yor Jampathong also serves bánh cuốn with dipping sauce, and yes, topped with Vietnamese ham.

Một món làm ra hai đứa!” Vinh added cheerfully. A single culinary classic giving birth to two offspring. Mildly poetic as it sounds, no other statement could have been more apt.


Related Articles:

- After Jakarta, Bangkok Is the Next Asian City That's Sinking Too Fast

- Bangkok to Remove All Sidewalk Vendors by End of Year

- Asia's Largest LGBT Contemporary Art Show to Take Place in Bangkok in 2019


Related Articles

in Food Culture

A Cozy Abode of Bak Kut Teh and Migrant Teochew Gastronomy in the Heart of Saigon

Singaporean Teochew bak kut teh is a seemingly simple broth made with pork ribs that has managed to enamor locals and foreigners for decades.

in Food Culture

American Chef Anthony Bourdain, Who Introduced Bún Chả to Obama, Passes Away at 61

Anthony Bourdain, the chef, writer and travel show host, has passed away at 61.

in Food Culture

Bangkok to Remove All Sidewalk Vendors by End of Year

While Saigon debates the future of street vendors in the city, officials in nearby Thailand are working to remove all vendors from Bangkok's pavements by the end of the year. 

in Food Culture

Bottoms Up: Alcohol Consumption Exploding in Vietnam

While this may come as no surprise to anyone who has driven past one of Saigon's many raucous beer clubs, Vietnam is home to one of the fastest-growing alcohol markets in the world.

in Food Culture

Da Lat, the Unlikely Home of El Salvador's Rare Pacamara Coffee Beans

In a previous life, Nguyen Van Son was an auto parts salesperson. As a gift of appreciation for his wife, he acquired a seemingly trivial plot of land in Da Lat and made it a place where the family co...

in Food Culture

From Texas to Saigon: Viet-Cajun Cuisine's Journey Around the World

Given the size of the overseas Vietnamese diaspora, it comes as little surprise that the community has had a huge influence on the cuisines of countries around the world.

Partner Content

Video »

BUDX HCMC