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Alex Hanesakda, owner of Laotian-inspired and Asian fusion eatery SapSap, was one of two “heroes” recognized by the Wisconsin chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA-WI) in their AAPI (Asian American, Pacific Islander) Community Hero Recognition Program on July 11. Hanesakda was nominated by Shary Tran, a member of ElevAsian.

The other person recognized was Soumaly Bounket, a Laotian refugee and retired educator.

The purpose of the AAPI Community Hero Recognition Program is to honor individuals who have made a positive impact on the AAPI community in Wisconsin. Hanesakda has not only made an impact on those who belong to the AAPI community, but also on the veteran community and beyond.

Alex has created awareness of the Lao community through his restaurant, SapSap. He introduced the community to Laotian food and used that platform to raise awareness of issues like undetonated landmines in Laos and veterans’ issues in the US.

Shary Tran
Delicious cuisine, fried chicken banh mi, from SapSap. – Credit: Alex Hanesakda

SapSap: A family legacy

Hanesakda’s efforts and passion for food and serving others came from his parents. His father fought alongside the US troops in the Vietnam War. From there, the Hanesakdas relocated to Burlington. To help navigate their new community and to connect with others, his mother began cooking for the local community. You can read more about the family’s story by reading SapSap’s Business Spotlight article.

Hanesakda now owns a brick-and-mortar location at 2343 Mead St. as well as a food truck, where he continues to provide for his community.

The nomination

Tran also commented on Hanesakda’s ability to always give back through SapSap’s profits. Hanesakda regularly donates profits from the sales of his sticky rice lager, Thum Phuk, to the nonprofit We Help War Victims.

“This recognition is special because Alex does not seek recognition or do these kinds of things for awards. He does them because he’s a good human,” Tran said.

Hanesakda, appreciative and humbled, shares, “I just cook food.” He acknowledges that it is cool to receive the award, but “it is more important that we can help those that need it. Those are the real heroes.”

Helping heroes

Egg rolls like his mom used to make. – Credit: Alex Hanesakda

Another way that SapSap gives back is by providing free meals to veterans. There is an active fundraiser hosted on GoFundMe called PengPeng: Feeding Veterans, Feeding Our Community. “Peng” is a Lao word meaning “to lovingly care for.”

Donations made to this GoFundMe will continue to provide for veterans who visit SapSap as well as those in need of food security. At this time, half of the $20,000 goal has been raised.

Any US veteran can receive one menu item of their choice for free per visit to SapSap upon displaying their proof of service.

To help continue the efforts, donate to the PengPeng GoFundMe or the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin.

Find SapSap on Facebook for more information and visit their website to check out their menu.

Making a donation

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