Pho Le’s crab boil

Laura Le

Photo by Cathy Wagner

Ta Le and Anh Tran have been serving authentic Vietnamese food in Chico since August 2016, when they opened Pho Le. Just last month, they partnered with close family friend Tony Le (pictured—no relation) from Sacramento to expand, opening Wild Casian Crawfish and Seafood. “Casian” is a play on words combining Cajun and Asian, and the food is a similar combination of flavors. The cuisines may at first seem divergent, but Le and Tran’s 21-year-old daughter, Laura Le (also pictured), says they are not as unrelated as one might think; Casian, she says, is like American Vietnamese. Indeed, it grew out of the kitchens of Vietnamese refugees in Texas and Louisiana. Both Laura and her older brother James work at the restaurant with their parents, which adds to the family feel of the place. Don’t let the new signage fool you—it’s all under one roof and all the food is being cooked in one kitchen by Ta and Tran. Wild Casian isn’t the only thing new at Pho Le; they also knocked down a wall and built a bar in the back, where they now serve beer and wine. Laura recently sat down with the CN&R to explain the concept. For more, find Pho Le on Facebook or visit 2201 Pillsbury Road in the Almond Orchard shopping center.

What sets Vietnamese food apart from other Asian cuisines?

You know how Chinese food is like a lot of things that are fried in oil—we have a lot of veggies that are incorporated. There are a lot of greens and a lot of color in Vietnamese food, as opposed to Chinese food.

How did you decide to add Casian food?

I think [my parents] wanted to add on something else, something more to it so we could have more options. Also, Tony has family with a Casian restaurant in Texas.

So, Casian is a fusion of Cajun and Asian flavors?

[It] comes from Vietnamese people in Louisiana, and it kind of fuses those things together. We incorporate our Asian flavors into the Cajun-style seafood. Have you ever seen a seafood [boil] that’s just dumped on the table and eaten? Basically it’s that, but we incorporate our Asian flavors into it.

So, you dump the seafood on the table?

It will come in either a bowl or a bag, depending on how much you get, and then our table will be covered with paper and some people just dump the whole thing on the table and start eating it.

Who is your clientele?

We get people of all kinds. I feel like we have almost the entire Vietnamese community in Chico, which is not that big but there is one, and you can see them in Pho Le. They come out and support us a lot. A lot of college kids come in. There’s actually a lot of regulars that come in, too, people who come in on a daily basis.