Ethnic Success in Owensboro

Hser Wah, a young chef and a member of the Karen (pronounce KAH-ren) ethnic group of Myanmar has recently opened a new restaurant in Owensboro, Kentucky with the help of her family.

Hser Wah and her older sister Tee Moo, the spokesperson for the restaurant, moved with their family to a refugee camp just over the Thailand border in 2000. As young girls, they remained at the camp for 10 years before resettling in Owensboro in 2010 with help from the International Center of Kentucky.

“It was hard living there; there were no jobs,” Tee Moo said. “We moved straight to Owensboro. My whole family came here, and nobody has left. We don’t want to go anywhere else.”

The girls explained that it was a rough transition at first because everything in the United States was new to them, from the food to the weather to the language. 

“We started to go to school here,” Tee Moo said. “We learned in Thailand how to read and write some English, but the education was not like it is here in the United States. We couldn’t speak English at all, besides saying ‘hello’ and that was all we knew. There wasn’t anyone here who spoke both Karen and English, but there was someone at the International Center who spoke Burmese, which helped us a little bit in figuring everything out.”

Both girls graduated from Owensboro High School in 2014, and at the age of only 25, Hser Wah is realizing a lifelong desire to own her own restaurant

“When my sister was little in the camp over there, she loved to make money on her own by cooking stuff and selling it to people,” Moo said.  “That’s her dream, to cook for others and have her own restaurant. I’m not a cook, but I work here and watch my sister be successful living out her dream. I love it here, I love to work with her, and I’m so happy to see her success.”

While the Burmese population has grown in Owensboro, Wah said there wasn’t a Burmese restaurant, so she decided to open one herself. The sisters expressed their gratitude for the support they have received from their friends, family, and the Burmese community.

The menu at the Owensboro Karen Restaurant is a mixture of Thai and Burmese specialties.

To learn more about these independent sisters visit the Karen Facebook page here or visit them at the restaurant located at 7040 State Route 56, Owensboro, KY 42301, to enjoy their delicious meals.