LLOTP continues our brief feature series, introducing you to the creatives and organizers of the Lao American Writers Summit 2016. Meet Catzie Vilayphonh, a Lao American spoken word poet and creator of Laos in the House. She’ll be running a social media workshop at the Lao American Writers Summit, this May 27-28, 2016.
Who is Catzie?
Catzie Vilayphonh is an award-winning writer, performance artist and spoken word poet. She currently runs Laos In The House, a project that promotes story-telling in the Lao community through mediums of art, partially inspired by her own experience of discovering her own history through seeing other Lao artists’ work.
Describe in detail your favorite Lao dish.
Mieng made from dried, fried sticky rice that’s reconstituted with a savory broth. It’s mushy, and I wish I could find a better way to describe the texture (my friend Manila called it “Lao oatmeal” when he first tried it) but it’s deliciousness comes from all the toppings you can put on it when you make your lettuce wrap. Although the idea is to be able to taste so many flavors at once – salty, spicy, sweet, sour – I love that you can customize your own to make it taste however you want. My personal favorite is sliced lemongrass, peanuts, kaffir limes leaves, pork rind and chilies. When I need to slow my roll on the spiciness, I go the sweeter route with toasted coconut, ginger and cilantro. I’ve never met a person who didn’t like mieng.
A second note I’d like to add is yes, it takes a lot of work to make mieng from scratch, but it’s a reminder to me that 1) Lao people don’t let food go to waste and 2) we are so dedicated to making sure the food we nourish our families with also tastes good, because that’s a memory you’ll always have.
When you tell someone your ethnic background, what’s their first reaction?
I always answer with “My parents are from Laos”, so the follow up is either they know about Laos (so they think) or they have no idea where and what country. I sometimes give a little geography and history lesson, depending on how much patience I have.
In three words, why people should attend the Lao American Writers Summit in San Diego?
Lao American History.