>> Pho Ketkeo | Eat the World NYC

22 August 2020

Pho Ketkeo


[COVID-19 UPDATE: Pho Ketkeo is allowing limited capacity dine-in seating in accordance with current Connecticut rules. Staff are masked and the dining room is well-spaced. Delivery and takeout are options here as well.]

Admittedly, New Haven is pushing the bounds of what this website defines as its territory. If there was great sushi, or Italian, or even regional Chinese, New Haven would probably be considered too far. For Lao food though, the boundaries are being stretched a bit, because it is a cuisine that flirts with New York City here and there, but always leaves it disappointed for something permanent.

There are trains and buses, and for those privileged enough to own a vehicle, once you pass Co-op City in the northern reaches of the Bronx, New Haven is just a bit more than an hour up I-95 on a good day. This Lao restaurant is worth the trouble no matter how you arrive.

As with most Lao restaurants in the country, the cuisine of Thailand is also offered on the sign outside and throughout the menu. Here they do not separate it into sections and dishes unique to each country intermingle on each page. You probably will not be disappointed by the Thai selections, but this will be about Lao food, somewhat harder to find and what makes Pho Ketkeo a special place.

Nam khao (8.95, above) is a staple dish in the country and should not be missed here at Pho Ketkeo. It could not be better. Sometimes classified as a salad, this is a next-level fried rice dish that includes hunks of fried sticky rice that give each bite a beautiful crunch and spice from curry. This intermingles with the sourness of Lao fermented sausages and plenty of fresh herbs.

Having recently enjoyed a couple bowls of khao poon in soup form, it was with a great eagerness that the thum khao poon ($7.95, above) was ordered. This is served as a salad (thum) rather than in broth, which they have as well. It looks simple but is full of so much flavor that comes at you from all directions.

The soup of this order was all-time favorite kaeg nor mai ($12.95, below right), a bamboo soup originally served to kings and queens. Eating it usually makes you feel like royalty even today, as it is so luxurious and delicious. Along with the bamboo, there are different types of mushrooms, squash and zucchini, lemongrass, and flavored by yanang leaves

Despite its absence in most versions anywhere on the east coast, tripe is an essential part of larb seen ($10.95, below), a beef larb also full of Thai chilies, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, onions, mint, cilantro, lemon juice and fish sauce, and the crunchiness of toasted bits of sticky rice.

The larb might be the best example of a dish that proves the kitchen's insistence on bringing the most real foods to New Haven that Lao people miss from back home. They also serve a few types of pho, which are widely consumed for breakfast in Laos, a country full of Vietnamese people as well.

NEW HAVEN Connecticut
21 Temple Street

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