For 30-year-old Chau Huynh, Bao Vietnamese Kitchen is a childhood dream come true.
“Ever since I was little, I dreamed of owning a restaurant where I can serve my mom’s Vietnamese food,” Huynh said.
Huynh and her family immigrated to America from Vietnam when she was 9 years old. Sitting in her restaurant as music softly plays in the background, Huynh recounts how she thought the move was a vacation at first. Huynh now considers Baton Rouge her home and met her husband through a local church in the city.
“We were childhood friends and just ended up getting married,” she said with a laugh.
The food at Bao is inspired by Huynh’s mother, who didn’t know how to cook when she arrived in the states but quickly learned how because Huynh’s father needed her to. The culture in Vietnam is centered around family, Huynh said, so her mother never needed to know how to cook because Huynh’s grandmother would usually prepare meals for the family.
Vietnamese food is relatively healthy, but unique and representative of the land it comes from, she said.
“Vietnamese food has a balance between the sweet and sour, so with almost every dish you can notice the balance between both,” Huynh said.
For example, fish sauce, a staple in southeast Asian cuisine, has salt and sugar with lime juice, she said. Bao’s sugarcane juice is mixed with kumquat juice, and even the lemonade is salted.
Some of the most popular dishes Bao serves are chicken wings, pho and the vermicelli bowl. The vermicelli bowl is a bowl with rice noodles, shredded lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts, peanuts, herbs, fish sauce and a choice of chicken or shrimp.
Another favorite Bao is known for are its drinks and desserts, such as the chè ba màu, or three color dessert. It consists of mung beans, kidney beans, navy beans, green jelly and coconut milk.
Huynh’s mother is the head chef at the restaurant and Huynh’s husband, Tam Nguyen, helps her run the restaurant.
He says the hardest part about the new business is managing the staff, but the duo is committed to excellence.
“One of the best compliments we got was when a person came in when we first opened, and then again a few weeks later, and they said that our service and food had improved since their first visit,” Huynh said.
The couple has high hopes for the future, including obtaining their liquor license and making more use of their courtyard as the weather cools. They have no regrets and are confident that their restaurant can thrive in its present location, Huynh said.
“We realize that two previous restaurants were located here and they didn’t do too well, but we believe we can bring something that the community needs,” Huynh said. “You know, America is the land of opportunity and we are taking advantage of the opportunity to follow our dream here.”