CHAO + PAN brings famous street snack from Laos and Thailand to Vancouver

The mother-daughter duo makes deep-fried pork ears with local ingredients

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      Forget the fluffy, flavourless pork rinds loaded with preservatives you find on grocery-store shelves. CHAO + PAN makes savoury pork crisps out of deep-fried pork ears—a taste of home for cofounder Lisa Saepan.

      Saepan was born in Luang Namtha, Laos, in 1965 and grew up during the Laotian Civil War. A battle between the Communist Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao Army, it was also known as the Secret War.

      “She remembers growing up during harsh living conditions, trying to run away from the Lao government,” says her daughter and company cofounder, Tamara Saechao. “They had nothing. No money, no food. All they could do was try to survive.”

      Tamara Saechao (right) remembers spending hours watching her mother, Lisa Saepan, make delicious meals for their family and friends while she was growing up.

      A self-taught cook, Saepan discovered her passion for food after immigrating to Canada. She began experimenting with different ingredients because she missed the flavours from back home and there wasn’t anything like it available here—and that’s how her pork crisps came to be.

      Most pork rinds or chicharrónes are made of deep-fried pork skin and have and light, airy texture. CHAO + PAN’s crisps consist of crunchy, deep-fried pork ears.

      The crisps come in three flavours: Original; Spicy, with ground Thai red chilli peppers and black pepper; and Chilli & Lime.

      Saechao says the snacks are gluten-free, carbohydrate-free, and keto- and paleo-friendly. The company sources all of its ingredients in Canada and doesn’t use any fillers, preservatives, or artificial flavours.

      If you’re not popping them back on their own as a mid-afternoon snack, serving suggestions include pairing the crisps with a papaya salad; using them as a topping on soups or salads; or simply enjoying with an ice-cold beer.

      You can find CHAO+PAN pork crisps at various grocery stores throughout Metro Vancouver, including Meinhardt Fine Foods, 88 Supermarket, and Dragon Pinoy Mart, or you can order them online.

      More info is at CHAO+PAN.