It all started with a walk last summer. Dau Xiong and his wife Maria Nguyen were out for a stroll in their hometown of Lafayette when they saw a restaurant up for sale on the outer edge of Old Town. While the two are both restaurant industry vets—Xiong is a chef, and the couple previously owned a fast-casual franchise—they’d never served their own food: the Hmong cuisine Xiong grew up eating, along with the Cajun seafood boils his family loved.
Despite the challenging timing, Xiong felt that this was his opportunity to bring Hmong food and spicy, Asian-infused seafood boils to Lafayette. In December 2020, smackdab in the middle of the pandemic, he and Nguyen opened Casian Seafood.
“He just had a vision,” Nguyen says. “He said ‘I want to cook in there,’ and I heard the passion in his voice…There is no other Hmong restaurant. Nobody knows anything about the Hmong culture and Hmong food, and he wanted to portray that.”
The family-run restaurant (the couple’s two kids help out, too) features traditional Hmong dishes like house-made pork belly sausage with ginger, lemongrass, and Thai chile peppers and spicy papaya salad with pork rinds, as well as Louisiana-sourced crawfish and shrimp. Casian’s sandwich menu continues the marriage of these two cultures with a pork belly banh mi and fried fish or shrimp po’boys.
The crawfish and shrimp boils have been the most popular—and for good reason. Xiong creates all of his own broths and sauces by injecting Cajun flavors with a Hmong twist. The garlic butter, for example, is seasoned with ginger and lemongrass, and the spicy Casian sauce gets its heat from Thai chiles. The shrimp (served heads-on), crawfish, andouille sausage, corn, and red potato boils come drenched in their broth, ensuring a messy, finger-licking, wet wipe–filled feast.
Wash it all down with one of the restaurant’s giant, made-to-order teas. First you pick your base of green, oolong, or black tea, followed by your flavor—dragon fruit, mango, and peach are just some of the options. Add rainbow popping pearls, boba, or lychee jelly, and you’re good to go.
If you’re not familiar with Hmong food, crawfish boils, or rainbow popping pearls, Nguyen asks that you give it a try. You might just discover a new favorite.
“Give it a chance,” she says. “We’re family owned and we’re in there every day, doing what we need to do. [Xiong] has so much passion and talent for this food. This is where he wants to be. This is his vision; this is his passion.”
If you go: Casian Seafood, 211 North Public Rd., Lafayette; 720-216-5704; casianseafood.com