December: Welcome to The Mekong Ft. Love Khao Swe & Mai Mom's Chili

This December, we are highlighting the stories and traditions of the Mekong. 

The Mekong River originates high in the Tibetan plateau and passes through six countries: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Estimated by the Mekong River Commission at just under 4909 kilometers long, it is the seventh longest river in Asia and the 10th longest in the world. The people of the Mekong are dependent on this vast waterway for transport, food, and harvest of natural resources for their daily life.

For the people living along the Mekong River, especially the 29.6 million living within 15km of the river, this great waterway plays both a cultural and economic role. Cultural practices, traditions, and holidays center around the river’s seasonal changes, and country economies depend on the resources and services of the river, which provides rice, fish, and water for domestic, municipal, and industrial use. 

People have lived in the Greater Mekong region for more than 4,000 years. These indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities continue to live in the region, each with their own traditional economic and cultural relationship to the natural environment. In the Kayah-Karen Tenasserin highlands between Thailand and Myanmar lives six different ethnic groups: The Akha, Hmong, Lu Mien, Karen, Lisu and Lahu peoples. In Thailand and Cambodia, 80% of the population is made up of minority ethnic groups like the Jarai, Kraol, Phnong, Ro Oung, Stieng, Oey, Kreung and Tampuan as well as Cham, Chinese, Khmer, Lao and Vietnamese. The Greater Annamite Mountains bordering Laos and Vietnam is home to 30 million people from 70 ethno-linguistic groups, such as the Ruc and Khamu Rok, who have inhabited this ecoregion for thousands of years. To the extent that they are able, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities in the region continue to live off the land based on traditional customs.

Source: Adapted from Open Development Mekong

Traditions of the Mekong 

Many festivals in Southeast Asia are linked to agricultural seasons or historical Buddhist holidays.

  • Burma: Tazaungdaing Festival, or the Festival of Lights, is held on the full moon day, and is celebrated as a national holiday to mark the end of rainy season.
  • Cambodia: Pchum Ben, or Ancestor’s Day, is a 15-day occasion that usually runs from the end of September to mid-October where the spirits of ancestors are thought to be so active they may even return to earth.
  • Laos: The general word for festival is "boun", and it is common to visit a temple and make merit or "thum boun" during holidays or rites of passage.
  • Thailand: Songkran is the April New Year festival where locals toss water on passersby to cleanse past misfortunes and allow them to enter the new year rejuvenated.
  • Vietnam: Mid-Autumn Festival, or harvest festival, is celebrated in mid-September in which families enjoy moon cakes together and make offerings in honor of the full moon.
  • China: The Lantern Festival or the Spring Lantern Festival is a festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar Chinese calendar, where lanterns are displayed or released to mark the end of the Chinese New Year festival. 

This month Tuk Tuk Box is proud to showcase the diverse traditions from the Mekong region, and we hope you enjoy this box of goodies in honor of our beautiful ancestries. Monthly subscribers will receive exclusive gifts and stories. Inside the Traditions of the Mekong box, you'll find a silver bowl, or "khaan" in Lao, traditionally used for almsgiving. Also included: Vietnamese seafood sauce, sun-dried beef jerky, and Mai Mom's chili oil from a mother-daughter duo who honor their hometown of Hue, Vietnam through their cooking.

Love Khao Swe

The Tuk Tuk Box Team is so honored to be able to share Mary and Tin Tin Aye's, a mother daughter duo, story this December. Mary and Tin Tin Aye share traditional Burmese dishes from their San Francisco, Bay Area hometown with rotating and new dishes every week. With offerings for the omnivores to vegan dishes, Love Khao Swe, has a little something for every palette! 

 

Read about their amazing journey:
"My mom always wanted to have her own restaurant but as an immigrant from Burma in the US with 3 children plus my sister who was born in the US later on to look after, she never really got around to making her dream a reality. My mom did catering and lunch specials from her home as a side hustle to provide for our family while working a full-time job most of the time. Growing up, I watched my mom cook and fell in love with cooking myself. I saw the passion and love she put into all of her dishes. This motivated me and taught me to put the same love and passion into the food I cooked. During the first month of quarantine, I realized I was unhappy with the job I was at and decided to finally pursue cooking Burmese food as a career. I thought about my mom and all she sacrificed for us to us and felt it was time to make my mom's dream come true by cooking together and sharing our love for food with the world."

 

 

 What is your favorite dish? Is there a story behind it?

 

"I am highlighting our Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup because it is our best seller and it is the dish I started selling when we first started out. I always felt like this dish was a star but for some reason when I go to Burmese restaurants, they never showed the potential of this dish. So here I am, showing the world how amazing and delicious this noodle soup dish is.

Coincidentally enough, my favorite dish is the Coconut chicken noodle soup. My mom threw us little birthday parties at home where she would invite all her friends to join us for lunch/dinner. She would cook up to 7 different dishes at a time. It was quite an event to be invited to one of my mom's birthday parties she threw us. Every year for my birthday, my mom would ask me which dish I wanted for my birthday and Coconut Chicken noodle soup was my pick every time. My mom always made sure that Coconut chicken noodle soup was on the menu for my birthday every year."

 

What does courage mean to you?

 

"Courage to me is leaving behind your entire family in Burma to live in a foreign country without speaking the language, start a new life and to give your children the "American Dream." This is my mom. The word courage alone is my mom. She is the definition of courage because she did that without hesitation. She had no idea what to expect, she just did it. I think about how scary it must have been for my mom to leave everything and everyone she loved behind to give a better life for my brothers and I. Courage is leaving the fear behind and entering the unknown with a heart filled with hope."

 

Where can we expect to see you in the next few years?

 

"In the next few years I will be working on new projects for love khao swe. Will I have a brick and mortar anytime soon? Probably not. The reason why is because I feel like this concept I have created has so much space to grow so being limited to one space would not be ideal. I always admired food places that were not accessible at all times. It made them special and it made us want them more. I want love khao swe to be special. I don't know what I will be doing exactly, but I know for sure when I figure out the concept, love khao swe will always hold its title as "that special home-cooked style Burmese food."

 

Follow:
Instagram - @lovekhaoswe
Facebook - @lovekhoaswe

 

Mai Mom's Chili Oil

Mai Mom’s Chili Oil was founded in 2020 by a mother-daughter duo in San Diego, CA. Inspired by their love for spicy food and drawing from their roots in Hue, Vietnam, Mama Mai created a chili oil made with fresh garlic that is perfectly spicy and extremely addicting! Enjoy Mai Mom’s Chili Oil with soup, noodles, rice, meat, seafood, eggs, or vegetables. The possibilities are endless!

Follow. Order. & Share: https://www.instagram.com/maimomschilioil/

Tuk Tuk Box loves to share stories of the diaspora like these two mother-daughter duos and are honored to be able to have the space and platform to share with others. If you would like to share your family's stories with us email hello@tuktukbox.com.