Taste of Oklahoma: Ma Der's Chef Chanchaleune Bringing Southeast Asian Cuisine To The Forefront In Oklahoma City

With help from his sister behind the counter, a mural from his grandmother on the wall and recipes straight from his childhood, Chef Chanchaleune said his restaurant, Ma Der, is his family's story.

Thursday, April 25th 2024, 10:41 am

By: News 9


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Headed by James Beard Best Chef Award nominee Jeff Chanchaleune, Ma Der in Oklahoma City's Plaza District is offering guests a new way to try Laotian food.

With help from his sister behind the counter, a mural from his grandmother on the wall and recipes straight from his childhood, Chef Chanchaleune said the restaurant is his family's story.

"I like to tell people it's kind of the greatest hits of everything I grew up eating," Chanchaleune said.

Growing up near the Plaza District, Chanchaleune now owns the city's first Laotian restaurant.

Chanchaleune's family emigrated to the United States 40 years ago, but top this day Chanchaleune said his goal is to make them proud.

"I just really wanted to honor them, and make them proud," Chanchaleune said. "Them coming here wasn't for nothing."

Many of the dishes in Chanchaleune's kitchen come straight from recipes brought over by his family, including his most popular dish: the crispy rice salad.

"Jasmine rice that we've cooked... red curry, a little bit of oyster sauce, fish sauce, salt, sugar and then when you compact it," Chanchaleune said. "You get a nice balance of textures."

As for the restaurant's name, Chanchaleune said the name began as a joke between him and his sisters after what their mother would tell them when food was ready.

"Ma Der actually means 'come through,' 'come eat,'" Chanchaleune said.

Chanchaleune said he took a risk on this restaurant after the COVID-19 Pandemic, and wanted to get back to his roots after cooking Japanese food professionally for two decades.

"Go back to my roots and honor my family," Chanchaleune said. "Especially since my mom is still alive, I'm getting to learn from her hands on."

As for his restaurant's reception, Chanchaleune said the support from the community has been "pleasantly surprising."

"The most common comment I get is 'where have I been?' I've never had these flavors before," Chanchaleune said.

Those flavors have landed Chanchaleune on the finalist list for the James Beard Best Chef Southwest Award.

"It's been wild... it's always been a dream," Chanchaleune said. "I've always wanted to get it, but never thought that would happen... because we're in Oklahoma. We're always overlooked, especially with this food. No one knows this food."

As for his plans right now, Chanchaleune said he wants to educate others about his food as much as he can.

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