During our daily travels in and around Phuket we pass various businesses and restaurants on the roadside and every now and then something catches our eye and sparks curiosity. During the evening especially when travelling along the Sai Yuan Road heading into Rawai you might have noticed two restaurants located one in front of the other (I know it sounds weird however it works, bare with me) on the left hand side called ‘Viet-Van’ and the ‘Crazy Dumpling’. We got in contact with co-owner and fellow expat Christine Lew to enlighten us on these two great, cool, and very popular restaurant’s.
Christine informed us that Viet-Van is open all day, however, the Crazy Dumpling is an evening time venue and so we agreed to review Viet-Van first.
The Viet-Van is essentially an orange and yellow food truck kitchen that sits on its own roofed spot surrounded by matching colored tables and chairs. The area surrounding the tables and chairs is well decorated with bushes and tasteful hanging plants, that create a private garden type atmosphere that somehow manages to shield guests from the roadside just meters away.
Christine told us that she is originally from Malaysia, however, has lived in Phuket for 7 years. Prior to opening these restaurants with her partner Russell, she worked extensively in pr and marketing for some prestigious names in the food and beverage industry on the Island. Christine is young, attractive, has a contagious energy and is a determined lady. Viet-Van was the brainchild of her partner and excellent cook Russel who upon a solo trip to Vietnam stumbled across and fell in love with Vietnamese cuisine. He came up with creating the food truck style restaurant, designed all the logos and created the menu with the help of Christine.
“I think to be in this business, you need to have a certain degree of love and passion for food”.Christine Lew, co-founder and owner of Viet-Van and The Crazy Dumpling – Rawai, Phuket.
“The truck isn’t real; we had a shell kitchen and van mould custom built to make it look like a camper van” Christine said. It looks pretty real to me; I think they did a great job. Christine went through the simply designed menu that offers the classic mouthwatering Vietnamese dishes. Christine agreed to order three dishes for me to try, first up was the classic ‘Fur Gaa’ clear chicken noodle soup, followed by a crispy pork ‘Baan Mi’ baguette, finishing with some fresh ‘Vegetable Rolls’.
Once the food arrived, I took one sip of the ‘Fur Gaa’ and I was in heaven. Do not underestimate the flavour of this clear soup, it was stunning and took me by surprise. Next up was the ‘Baan Mi’ baguette. Now, I’ve eaten a fair few of these before but never with crispy pork. Christine told us that the baguettes are specifically made for ‘Viet-Van’ by a local baker as the texture and crunch had to be authentic. In all honesty at the time, I didn’t pay this detail too much attention, but when I held it in my hand and took a bite I was sold. The baguette was incredible and undeniably the kind you will not find anywhere else I promise. This coupled with the delicious pork, fresh mint and heat from the sauce created and explosion in my mouth. This is a dish you could get addicted too.
The final offering was the ‘Vegetable Rolls’ served with a peanut sauce side. I dunked my roll in the sauce and put it in my mouth. The freshness of these rolls and the ingredients of all these dishes really stood out. When I put this to Christine, she was excited and of course pleased. “Every morning at 09:00 I go and buy fresh produce to make sure that these dishes are served as intended” she said.
I thanked Christine for the introduction and food tasting at Viet-Van and we agreed to meet that evening at 19:00 to experience The Crazy Dumpling.
Both the Viet-Van and The Crazy Dumpling really come alive at night. I met with Christine, and we launched straight into the tour. The Crazy Dumpling sits just behind Viet-Van and both completement each other creating a fun Asian cultured assault on the environmental senses. This restaurant is surrounded by bamboo, the walls have attractive and fun neon lights and care and attention to detail has been given to the authentic Japanese décor and ornaments.
This detail also extends to the incredible floor doodle (again designed by Christines partner Russel) that was printed to the floor from design within an impressive 3 days. This flooring and the catchy famous neon script sign which says “I like people I can be crazy with” is of course Instagram candy. Christine said that she and her partner Russell wanted to create an environment where guests could come and chill, eat some tasty bites and enjoy some drinks. In the past they have gone all in and introduced Japanese style karaoke nights which went down well. This and more entertainment is planned for the coming high season.
Christine went through the menu, and I raised my eyebrows with surprise at some of the dumpling fillings available. These included cheese hamburger, pizza, green curry and aromatic duck dumplings to name but a few. What else would you expect from a restaurant with such a name. Christine was again at the helm with choosing the food. The final order was two dumpling dishes with cheeseburger and aromatic duck fillings, tuna flavoured tacos, and a Sweetcorn and a Wakami Japanese salad.
Following Christine’s advice, I started with the Cheeseburger dumpling. This was superb and as you would expect, just like a burger. I’d like to add that my favorite hamburger is a McDonalds Big Mac and this dumpling tasted very similar with its sauce topped with a gherkin. This is a huge plus in my book.
Next up was the Aromatic Duck dumpling. This was great and reminded me of Chinese duck pancakes with plumb sauce and vegetables. We then tried the Tuna Tacos which were mouthwateringly fresh. I don’t eat tuna that often, however, I did enjoy this fusion dish. The final sample was the two salad side dishes starting with the Sweetcorn. This was warmed and cooked with small shrimp, coated in a paprika styled seasoning to add heat which I liked.
The final mouthful was of some of the Japanse Wakami salad. This was lovely and simple and again tasty and fresh. I put to Christine again how impressed I was with the quality of the ingredients and she replied, “I think to be in this business, you need to have a certain degree of love and passion for food”. You’re not wrong I thought, this love and passion is evident here.
I was inspired by Christine and Russell and always get a kick out of seeing people coming up with ideas and dreams and then turning them into reality. Having lived in the area of Rawai for many years I often yearned for someone to create something a bit different in terms of the food offering and the experience created by the environment of the venue itself. Well, Christine and Russel have done that and I hope to see more Viet-Vans and Crazy Dumplings appearing in other areas of the island and perhaps beyond.
Thank you to Christine and Russell for the review and talking to the Faragbowl. It was great fun!!!
Thank you too, readers.
Viet-Van and Crazy Dumpling
Owner: Christine Lew
Address: Soi Saiyuan 7, Rawai, Thailand, Phuket
Call: 063 610 0206
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/kKZK5TwVTgkUwJwp8
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