Thuy Pham gets emotional about food. The rising star of Portland’s vegan food scene is bringing Vietnamese food back to its vegetarian roots with her restaurant Mama Dút, which translates to “mama will feed you.” (Pham’s 7-year-old daughter provided inspiration for the restaurant’s name.)
“Vegan Vietnamese food dates back for centuries to Buddhism in Vietnam, and it’s part of our culinary history that I think has been lost after years of colonization,” she says, getting slightly choked up. “I am just honored to bring it back. I think for Americans who are also immigrants and refugees, we hold onto those [food] connections a lot closer to our hearts because we are so physically far from our homelands.”
Pham has had a swift rise in Portland’s food scene, ironically due to COVID. She was a hairstylist until salons had to shutter. A longtime vegetarian who’s been vegan for the past two years, Pham started in the spring of 2020 researching how to make vegan pork belly. She started her wildly successful first pop-up in early summer. And now she’s got a shop at 1414 SE Morrison St. In January and February of 2021, Pham teamed up with Quorn, national purveyors of meat-free protein and meals, to launch a pop-up celebrating Vietnamese dishes. She was excited to bring back her pho noodle soup, which is a favorite of her daughter and Pham herself. Find out what else she is serving at mamadutfoods.com.