ON THE BLOCK
Q&A with Chef-Owner Bo Pathammavong of Uncle Bo’s
Photography by Amber Schoniwitz
Along bustling Kapahulu Avenue, there’s a small, unassuming yellow building that’s home to one of Oahu’s favorite hidden gems, Uncle Bo’s. Boasting an eclectic menu packed-full of local favorites, we wanted to sit down and “talk-story” with the man behind the menu, Chef-owner “Uncle” Bo Pathammavong.
WM: This winter, we explored the concept of “comfort food” quite a bit and how it has shaped different chefs and their menus. Can you give us some insight about what comfort food means to you?
UB: It’s such a universal concept that regardless of where you’re from, you can appreciate comfort food! Whether you’re brought up on mac and cheese, chicken soup, or Hamachi sashimi, we all have those certain triggers that bring us a wonderful sense of well being and nostalgia. For me, it’s a great big hot bowl of pho, which is basically a hot broth made from soup bones, various spices, herbs, combined with rice noodles and assorted local veggies. I grew up in Laos and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand before I became a U.S. citizen as a teenager. Most people think pho is purely a Vietnamese dish, but it’s very popular throughout Southeast Asia. As a child my mother would make us pho almost daily… and I hated it growing up. I guess knowing we were eating pho because we had to (it’s relatively inexpensive to make), instead of because we wanted to, made me unappreciative of my mother’s hard work. But as the years passed by and my culinary world expanded, I have come to deeply appreciate the simplicity of a dish that culturally was so important to so many people. It provided warmth and sustenance to my family during the hardships of enduring our refugee camp, and now every time I have a bowl of pho, I enjoy every slurp!
WM: You’ve told us that the “S.O.S.” is one of your favorite comfort dishes at Uncle Bo’s. We’ve heard a few rumors about where the name comes from, but can you tell us what it really stands for?
UB: S.O.S. stands for “Soup Or Stew.” Our guests often ask, “Is this a soup or stew?” and our answer is simply that it’s a little bit of both… It’s thicker and more hearty than a soup, but still soothing, rich and comforting.
WM: What’s the inspiration behind the dish?
UB: I was in New Orleans for a layover and had an opportunity to try some fantastic Cajun cooking. I loved the different spices and aromas; so unique, yet flavorful and delicious. So when I got back home, I decided to play around with some recipes to recreate some of the fun unique flavors from New Orleans, but with my own spin. What we came up with is the “S.O.S.!!!” It’s loaded with lots of seafood; chunks of lobster meat, shrimp, crab, scallop, and fresh clams. It’s a combination of savory, velvety, and decadent all in one. If you’re a seafood lover like me, THIS is your dish!
WM: What is your personal, hands-down, favorite dish on the menu?
UB: Hands down my favorite dish is our Thai Steamer Clams… It’s what put Uncle Bo’s onto the map! We use a whole pound of fresh sweet Manila clams sautéed with choy sum and tomatoes. It’s one of the original dishes that we had on our menu 8 years ago when we opened Uncle Bo’s on Kapahulu Avenue, and to this day it is still one of our most popular dishes.
WM: Uncle Bo’s is eight years in, congratulations! What new things can we look forward to in the near future?
UB: We are incredibly excited to announce the future opening of Uncle Bo’s Haleiwa in the beautiful north shore of Oahu! We are hoping to open within the next few months. The grand opening date hasn’t been set yet, so until then you can always check us out right here at the original Uncle Bo’s on Kapahualu!
559 Kapahulu Ave. | 808.735.8311
[ pau ]