A few years ago, when he was holding one-off events like Pho on the Farm, Alex Hanesakda says his Lao-fusion food business, SapSap, was better known as “that random pop-up company.” “People didn’t really know what Lao food was,” he explains. Aside from perhaps a dish or two on a Thai restaurant menu, Lao cuisine didn’t garner much attention.
Hanesakda, a first-generation Lao-American who grew up in Burlington, is working to change that. In late spring, he opened a permanent home for the business in Mount Pleasant (2343 Mead St.), where he started offering carryout with plans to open for dine-in service. SapSap is a labor of love for the self-trained chef, who calls his cooking a hybrid of his upbringing (“cooking with my parents and my aunties and uncles”) and living in Wisconsin.
In 2010, Hanesakda first offered “Mamma’s” egg rolls (based on his mother’s recipe) at Asian Fest. Six years later, while working in East Troy butcher shop Hometown Sausage Kitchen, he debuted a product line under the name SapSap – which means delicious delicious in Lao. His first product was a beef snack stick using Lao ingredients such as makrut lime leaves and bhut jolokia (ghost peppers).