BackEat & Drink » Food Culture » Chả Lụa Fit for a Kingdom: How Thailand Fell in Love With Vietnamese Ham

Chả 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Visit Moo Yor Jampathong in Bangkok at this address.

Related Articles

in Food Culture

In Taiwan, a Vietnamese Baker Creates Bánh Mì Thịt From Scratch

“We’re going to Taipei on VietJet Air,” an acquaintance said to me. An international flight on Vietnam’s notoriously delayed airline didn’t sound like the best idea ever. But who would expect that I w...

in Ănthology

A Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm in Singapore That Tastes (and Smells) Just Like Home

Joo Chiat, a neighborhood in the eastern realms of Singapore, is hardly a forgettable area.

Michael Tatarski

in Saigon Hẻm Gems

Hẻm Gems: Handmade Noodles Hidden Amid the Mayhem of Hang Xanh

The traffic-choked wastelands of Hang Xanh are one of the last places you'd expect to find an incredible meal of noodles.

in Saigon Hẻm Gems

Hẻm Gems: A Thai Feast on a Hẻm Pavement, With Vietnamese Fusion Twists

While Thailand and Vietnam have long been perpetual rivals in the football arena, at this streetside Hẻm Gem, the two cultures forge a harmonious relationship.

Thi Nguyen

in Saigon Hẻm Gems

Hẻm Gems: Krua Thai's Raw Seafood Salad Is Not for the Faint-Hearted

The first role I ever took in my home kitchen was to prepare sweet fish sauce with chili and garlic to pour over rice and noodles. As simple as this may sound, I still can’t master the art after years...

in Vietnam Hẻm Gems

Hẻm Gems: Nha Trang's 22-Year-Old Bánh Canh Cá Sings the Praises of the Sea

Traveling in Nha Trang wouldn't be complete without tasting this delicious bowl of bánh canh which makes you enjoy eating almost every part of the fish, from its meat to its organs.

Partner Content