A Tryst with Thai and Lao Food

Shrimp and Pork Rolls

Blog Post by Rushi Dhakad

In Kenwood, a restaurant serves an elaborate menu of authentic Thai dishes – and Lao cuisine too. At the helm is Valerie Germain. That’s right. An American woman is running Bamboo Kitchen with an all-female kitchen and she’s been doing so successfully for more than two years.

“We work together as a team. Everyone does everything,” Valerie says proudly. But there is no denying that she’s the leader, she is the face of Bamboo Kitchen, often even taking a smaller paycheck to keep the show going.

Valerie’s affair with Asian food started early this century when she began working in Asian restaurants, including an 11-year stint at a family-owned Thai-Lao restaurant called ‘Mekong’ (named for the river between these two countries). During that time, Valerie not only acquired expertise in the cuisine but also became a part of their family. Years later, she still enjoys getting together with that Lao family and also offers support for their new restaurant 3 Ladies Thai in Florence, Kentucky.

Bamboo Kitchen lao papaya salad

Lao Papaya Salad

When the owners of Mekong left Cincinnati, Valerie took the opportunity to open Bamboo Kitchen, keeping the same team together, including one of her Lao sisters Sophie. Valerie also kept the pieces together when a ‘silent partner’ had second thoughts and withdrew from the restaurant. She made sure the Bamboo Kitchen team made it through restructuring, which required money out of her own pocket. The team worked extra hours, and within a few months, recovered from the setback.

The name ‘Bamboo Kitchen’ reflects the theme of the restaurant’s interior as well as the common use of bamboo in Thai-Lao cuisine. Even though Valerie is American, she insists on serving authentic food to customers. As a result, Bamboo Kitchen uses 100% coconut milk in all their curries, buys only real Thai basil and uses fresh white noodles, which is not common in the business.

Valerie has big plans ahead for her restaurant. Her future ambitions include opening a Bamboo Kitchen food truck, offering her appetizers and home-made sauces in groceries, and participating in more events like Asian Food Festival.

Bamboo Kitchen sticky rice dessert

Sticky Rice Dessert

Tasters at Asian Food Fest 2017 won’t be disappointed as Bamboo Kitchen showcases its mix of Lao and Thai foods. The Lao Papaya Salad is served in mild or spicy versions, and the Shrimp and Pork Rolls are sure to be a great main dish, made of whole shrimp stuffed with pork, which is wrapped and fried. Sticky Rice, a staple of Lao food, is not yet available in the restaurant but will make its debut at Asian Food Fest. Both banana and mung bean versions of the sticky rice dessert will be offered, wrapped and steamed in banana leaves.

Bamboo Kitchen roasted coconut juice

Roasted Coconut Juice

“Except for the roasted coconut water,” Valerie says laughing, “all dishes will be made from scratch.”

Visit Bamboo Kitchen and many more Asian food vendors at Asian Food Fest in Washington Park on May 13-14, 2017! Stay tuned for more news and posts from the AFF blog.