A little bit about us…
Tamarind’s philosophy is to use only the freshest, local ingredients and to provide a place where visitors can sample and learn about the special flavours and foods that comprise Lao cuisine. Started by Joy, a Lao national and his Australian partner, Caroline, it is a family business that aims to give back to the community by supporting local producers and suppliers.
Joy grew up in a village a few hours from Luang Prabang, the second youngest of nine brothers and sisters. By Western standards, his life has been very challenging: as a child he was left to fend for himself, finding foods in the forests and learning to cook with his father in the rice fields.
At the age of eleven, Joy was sent to Luang Prabang by his father
with a mere fifty cents and instructions to find a Wat (temple) and become a novice monk; the best way for a village boy to gain a good education. It was the first time he had left his village, seen a large town, or laid eyes on a foreigner. Despite this difficult start, Joy flourished in the temple, learning English, and completing high school.
Joy took naturally to a variety of skills including the art of cooking, helped by an ability to find fresh ingredients almost anywhere! He still enjoys cooking alongside his sisters, sharing family culinary traditions.
Upon leaving the Wat, Joy took up opportunities in the hospitality industry. He met Caroline in 2001 and inspired in her a love of Lao culture, people, landscape, and of course, food…
After travelling and living around the world (culminating in a job as a tour leader throughout South East Asia) Caroline decided to settle in Laos.
The beauty of Luang Prabang and the gentle friendliness of the people were the drawcards for her, and she worked as a teacher and then internet travel-guide writer. As a guide writer, she had checked out numerous restaurants and hotels through Laos and Thailand. The realisation grew that Luang Prabang offered many ‘Asian style’ generic eating places, yet the town lacked a welcoming place offering traditional Lao cuisine where westerners could be introduced to true local food and eating customs as one would experience in a local home.
Inspired by Joy’s creative cooking, the pair decided to offer travellers a user-friendly experience of local food and be a resource for local produce, food tastings and events in Luang Prabang. Tamarind: a Taste of Laos was opened in December 2005. Joy and Caroline have begun a series of cookbooks based on Luang Prabang cuisine. They have two children, Raffi born in 2007 and Willow born in 2011.
Our restaurant team are a fun loving bunch!
Cooking school staff
Most of the cooking school staff are Joy’s family members, who have come from the village to further their studies and work in Luang Prabang. They are led by Bep Wannasinh, who is Joy’s nephew and an excellent and very resourceful cook. His younger brother Sack assists the chef during the cooking class. While he has never had formal language teaching, his English is improving monthly.
Souk Ngeuamboupha and Morn Ngeuamboupha
Head chefs for the restaurant during the day are Joy’s two sisters, Souk and Morn. Morn is one of Joy’s older sisters, an excellent cook with a wealth of knowledge about Lao food. Before joining the Tamarind team she cooked for a popular street stall. Her husband Mok works at the cooking school. They have a beautiful seven year old daughter called Noyna. Souk is Joy’s younger sister, and has worked at Tamarind since the beginning. In September 2007, we were invited to be guest chefs at a Lao food promotion at the Sheraton Grande in Bangkok. Souk learned a lot from the experience, which is also the first (and only) time she has left the country, or been in an aeroplane or elevator. She has a naughty sense of humour and is a lot of fun to have around. She is now married with an eight year-old son called Fit and a toddler called Tanvah.
Keum & Porn Vilaiphon
Keum has an enthusiasm for sharing his love of Lao food. This passion and his sense of responsibility has ensured his rise through our Front of House team to a management role. Keum’s lovely wife Porn is one of our head cooks in the restaurant kitchen. They have just had their first child.
Nee, one of our longest-standing employees, has moved up through the ranks from kitchen to Front of House to Assistant Manager. Although a little shy, she does love meeting our customers and improving her English. She is most unusual, being one of the few Lao people who does not like spicy food!
Photographs on our site supplied courtesy of: Leanne Kitchen, Joanne McArthur, Gabriel Shaya, Joanna Smith, Bart Verweij, Elizabeth Hanna, Magic House, Caroline and Gail Gaylard.