The Couple behind The Cookhouse to Open Golden Wat Noodle House


Pieter Sypesteyn and Susan Kaars-Sypesteyn

It’s not chicken noodle soup the Sypesteyns turn to when in need of a comforting dinner. Instead, Susan Kaars-Sypesteyn makes her mom’s signature nom banh chok—a noodle dish that includes fresh turmeric, lemon grass, ginger, chicken and fish.

“It’s aromatic and refreshing but also feels so comforting,” Kaars-Sypesteyn says, adding that it’s a favorite among her and her husband Pieter Sypesteyn’s four kids. “It’s one of those dishes that reminds me so much of my mom. It feels like home.”

The Cambodian food of Kaars-Sypesteyn’s family has long been an at-home staple for the couple behind The Cookhouse, NOLA Brunch & Beignets, and Bud’s Southern Rotisserie, but the two say during the uncertainty of the pandemic it has been especially healing. Which is why when they were discussing how best to manage their businesses during COVID-19, Sypesteyn felt the time was right to launch a new project they’ve long discussed: Golden Wat Noodle House.

The Cambodian concept will open Aug. 19 with to-go lunches and dinners prepared from The Cookhouse’s kitchen. It honors Kaars-Sypesteyn’s mother, who ran a noodle shop in the capital of Cambodia before moving to California where Kaars-Sypesteyn and her siblings were raised on their parents’ cuisine.

“Opening Cookhouse was about sharing my home and my history and my culture, and now we’re able to do that with Susan’s story, too,” Sypesteyn says. “We want to be a part of the community in more ways than just living here. I don’t know if there’s any more of an intimate way to give to the community than by cooking for them.”

In the weeks leading up to Golden Wat’s launch, Kaars-Sypesteyn has been side-by-side with Sypesteyn and his team at The Cookhouse, teaching them about the various types of noodles, spices, marinades, and cuts that set Cambodian dishes apart—and not hesitating to offer corrections when needed. “English is not my first language so for me it’s so easy to go back to speaking Khmer, the Cambodian language,” she says. “It’s fun to be able to share that with them and teach them the different terms.”

For Sypesteyn plus his sous chef, executive chef and general manager, the crash course has been a welcome challenge. “The words and cooking techniques are very different from the European techniques that we all learned,” he says. “You can’t interpret it in some other way. If the wrong noodles or wrong sauce go together, it’s wrong.”

Kaars-Sypesteyn says Cambodian food has its origins in Indian and Chinese traditions, drawing on ayurvedic components plus fresh and anti-inflammatory ingredients. But it’s not Indian or Chinese food. “The food is its own,” Kaars-Sypesteyn says. “I love history and love being able to teach people about the history of this food and where it comes from.”

The menu will run from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays and will include six noodle dishes and five to six rice-based dishes that will be available for pickup or delivery. The forthcoming website, goldenwatnoodlehouse.com, also will sell pastes and mixes that can be shipped around the country for those who want to create their own Cambodian dishes at home.

Eventually, Kaars-Sypesteyn says they plan to move Golden Wat Noodle House to its own location and open for full service. For now, they hope to offer a touch of comfort for diners to enjoy at home.

“It’s really sustained us during this time and really given us a feeling of family and love and hope,” Kaars-Sypesteyn says. “It’s just been such a comfort for us, but it still feels very fresh and new in a way and we wanted to be able to share that with everyone else.”

Golden Wat Noodle House, opens Aug. 17, instagram.com/goldenwatnoodle



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