>> I Eat Lao Food | Eat the World NYC

16 December 2018

I Eat Lao Food


With so few Lao people in New York City and the eastern seaboard, the best chance to get some sense of what Lao cuisine is all about is to visit some of the most traditional Isan restaurants in the city. The northeastern province of Thailand has much in common with Laos and in fact is populated by more Lao people than the whole of Laos. Their languages are from the same family, and many of the spicy dishes go back and forth over the border.

But if you visit Laos, you will notice many differences as well, and many dishes that are never a part of the menus of Isan restaurants. Luckily we have a new chef who has been popping up here and there to serve traditional Lao food, and most recently was found in the North 3rd Street Market in Williamsburg.

The first four or five times I sampled his cooking was at the Queens International Night Market, grabbing a delicious $5 portion of nam khao tod between other plates from other vendors. I could not resist returning to the plate of crispy rice and fermented sour sausage full of lime juice and fish sauce. It never disappointed.

In Laos you would be served leaves of lettuce to wrap the rice in, but I always found the multiple crisp textures fought each other when  employed together and liked to focus on the rice alone.

The full kitchen at the Williamsburg market has allowed the chef to expand his operation and the menu has followed suit. One dish that is found on both sides of the border is laab ($13, above), a "salad" of minced or ground meats. In Laos, this always includes all the inside bits of the animal involved, although you see that less here. The version served at the market is actually with fish, and wonderful. All the right parts are there to make the dish the intense combination of flavors and textures that it should be, and despite not having a conversation about spice, a decent amount of peppers were sliced up in there to make it right.

Like many Lao dishes, this is a dish meant to be eaten with your hands. It is served with a generous hunk of sticky rice, pick a small piece of that and use it to pick up a bite of larb. Heaven.

Kapoon ($11, above and below) is another uniquely Lao dish of rice vermicelli. It is not altogether different from Malaysian laksa if you have had the chance to try that and not this, a curry soup of coconut milk and spices. This Lao dish will have galangal, lime leaves, and fish sauce though, setting it apart from other similar soups.

The dish is complex and fresh, as is everything on the menu I suspect. It looks like the month-long run at the market is coming to an end soon for I Eat Lao Food, but keep a watch on their social media to catch up with them in the future.

POP UP RESTAURANT/Changing Locations

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