“Can you come over tonight?” Tin Nguyen texted. Uncle Sai is making eggrolls, warming up for the Southeast Asian Street Food Festival coming Saturday to Plaza Midwood.
Nguyen serves on the board of Charlotte’s Southeast Asian Coalition (SEAC) and he’s helping coordinate the group’s third annual money-raiser. It funds Roots Camp, where U.S.-born, refugee, and immigrant youth learn about their cultural and historical roots.
This year’s feast will feature food from Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and more. Outside the Midwood International Cultural Center, look for the Yummi Bahn Mi food truck and and also one called A Bao Time (duck-stuffed buns! Nguyen enthuses). Inside the Center, a mother-daughter team will offer a variety of specialties. Youngsters will have small samples of family recipes to give away.
And Uncle Sai will be cooking up a storm.
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His full name is Saikham Houatchanthara and he fled Laos after the Vietnam War, spending a year in a Thai refugee camp before making it to North Carolina.
“I worked in a machine shop for 16 years while my wife worked in restaurants, learning everything,” he recalls. Finally they could open their own place, Pho Darvan in Asian Corner Mall. Rising rents near the LYNX Blue Line forced him out this summer after 15 years and he’s seeking a new spot.
But in the meantime, he’s happy to help SEAC with his pad thai. And sticky rice grilled in bamboo. And the traditional Laotian cold meat salad called laarb.
And those eggrolls. Thinner, longer, crisper than Chinese take-out eggrolls. Stuffed with crab, shrimp, mushroom, clear noodles. A memory of Laos on your tongue.
South East Asian Street Food Festival
The third annual event will feature a pho eating contest and plenty of traditional performances. There also will be a silent auction, raffle prizes, and, of course, Southeast Asian street food available for purchase.
When: Noon-6 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Midwood International Cultural Center, 1817 Central Ave.
Admission: Free; food items are available for individual purchase.
Details: 704-531-3853; www.SEACNC.org.