By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published May 16, 2021 at 9:01 AM

To honor Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re looking back at some of our favorite FoodCrush podcasts featuring Asian-owned restaurants.

This week, we’re featuring conversations about the rise of Lao cuisine with Darleen Vanmanivong of Thum and Victoria Sithy of Sweet Basil.

The past and future of Lao cuisine

Lao barbequed beefX

The cuisine of Laos is currently having its moment in cities throughout the U.S. That’s thanks, in large part, to a new crop of young chefs who’ve made it their mission to highlight the bold, vibrant flavors of Lao fare, a cuisine which has all-too-often been eclipsed by dishes from their (larger) neighboring countries of Thailand, Vietnam and China. Among those young chefs is Darleen Vanmanivong, an industry veteran who spent nearly a decade cooking food for other chefs before branching out to start her own restaurant, Thum.

 On this week’s podcast, we chat with Vanmanivong about the food she grew up eating, the grandmother who inspired her desire to share her culture and the philosophy with which she approaches her food. Along the way, we diverge to discuss a variety of food-related topics, from whole animal butchery (and items like fish eyeballs) to the flatulent secrets of sunchokes.



Lao street food: a tale of bravery, joy and deliciousness

"If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with him...the people who give you their food give you their heart." – Cesar Chavez

Lao street food platterX

If you need a bit of joy in your life (we all do), join us on this week’s podcast during which we talk with Victoria Sithy, co-owner of Sweet Basil, a bold new Lao restaurant which opened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. During our chat, Sithy shares the story of how her family entered the restaurant business, the thinking that went into their menu of street food inspired Lao cuisine and the spirit that has kept them going during these challenging times.

You’re sure to come away from this episode with a smile on your face, joy in your heart and a hankering for some delicious Lao street food from Sweet Basil.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.