Simple Eats – Luang Prabang

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Known in Thai as Khao Jii

Working in Luang Prabang a few weeks ago gave me ample time to taste and try the local laotian food native to Luang Prabang.  I felt that it was a melting pot of Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese and French Cuisines.  I think the Mekhong River helped spread the tradition around this area.  My friends told me that Vientiane cuisine is different to that of Luang Prabang, i guess we will have to wait and see.  Khao Jii or grilled sticky rice patty with brushed beaten egg and fish sauce is one of my absolute favorites.  It’s soft gooey insides with a savory salty crunchy bite coating.  The best part is that it’s offered slathered in a chilli paste, now many chilli pastes in Thailand is a sweet concoction which i’m not in favor off.  This is torpedo spicy.  Served on a banana leaf for 10 baht it was delicious.

At the walking street a cheerful food stall opened for business around 5 pm.  It’s the biggest stall at the beginning of the market (You cannot miss it)  selling Pho, Khao Soy and Noodles etc.  In Thailand Khao Soi is a Thick, creamy curry more islamic influenced with egg noodles and crispy egg noodles on top.  In Luang Prabang Khao Soi is a bean paste / tomatoeish / pork rib soup with noodles which is similiar to that of Chiang Mai’s Naam Ngeo which is similiar except we use fresh rice round noodles or flat wide noodles.  Usually served with fresh veggies, lime and spicy chilli paste it is one of my absolute favorites.  In Thailand we see it boiling in pots, but at this stall as they are serving so many varieties of noodles it seems like they only have 2 pots – one for boiling noodles and veggies and one for the stock.  So they have containers of pork ribs with the bean paste / tomato mixture and they mix with the stock.

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The hanging crispy things are not pork rind but buffalo rinds.  Light airy and delish!
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Fresh Veggie Basket.  Yum.
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Khao Soi – Luang Prabang Style

You choose your noodles, tear your garden herbs and veggies, squeeze some limes and dump crazy amounts of chillis and dig in.  It was around 80 baht which i thought was quite expensive for street food, but again this is Luang Prabang.

My fondness for Khao Soi is great as i had 4 bowls of if at different places.  This place seemed like a local restaurant – although there is no such thing because locals eat at home. They have Shrimp paste on the table complimentary eaten with fresh vegetables.  Thai use it to make a dip but the locals here eat it straight with fresh vegetables.  Quite lovely as i’m used to th epungent smell.

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Khao Soi at a local restaurant

Note that they all serve this noodle soup with fresh mint, limes and lettuce.  Really hearty and savory from the bean paste which is total different from miso which has a different feeling of saltiness to it.  The contrast with the tomatoish broth makes it a fresh sourness to it.

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This place serves their Khao Soi with Pork Rinds inside.  Broth was very savory.
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Plump Rice Grains – Soft and Hot

I have always preferred sticky rice over steamed rice i think its got a good texture and just feels more right.  The sticky rice at this roadside restaurant (only 4 tables) is nicely steamed.  Not tough when cooled.  Still soft and chewy.

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Sai Oua – Pork Sausage

The pork sausage is much blander than the ones in Northern Thailand but quite crispy casing, and juicy insides.  I feel that Laotian cuisine really relies on the tastes of the ingredients and not too much flavoring.  It will be considered bland for Thai tastes who which are so used to so much flavoring.

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Laotian Papaya Salad

Som Tam or papaya salad is one of my childhood favorites.  In Thailand the papaya is shaved in to small strands, in Luang Prabang it’s sliced and wide.  I like it because it had a nice texture and mouthfeel to it although the taste of the pradaek – fermented anchovies is not as strong as the ones in Thailand i feel.  They also have the addition of kapi – shrimp paste in their papaya salad.  I think it’s a taste that everyone can enjoy, a balance of sweet, savory, sour and spicy.  A well rounded dish, although i prefer extreme spicy and sour som tam.

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Naem – Fermented Pork Sausage

This is seriously to die for.  My whole team is still drooling for the grilled fermented pork sausage.  Hands down.  I have never had this good of a Naem before.  I usually dislike cooked Naem I prefer it still raw.  But this.  It’s juicy, slightly sour, very savory and the right balance of the pork rind to provide that teeth resistance when you bite into it.  Chew it together with a chilli and pop a hot sticky rice ball in your mouth.  It’s worth swiping your card, getting on air asia just for this Naem.  It’s been 3 weeks and everyone in the office is still dreaming and talking about this fresh fermented Porky Heaven.

Exquisite Thai Cuisine at Palm Cuisine Thonglor

Being Thai, i have never really felt an affection to “Touristy” Thai food.  See the thing is, i never felt like i needed to pay astronomical amounts of money for a dish that i can pick up on the street for i dunno a few bucks and cooked by a nice old granny but ok.. My mother was watching tv and this restaurant was featured on a show so of course off we went.  This little restaurant is actually a herbal upscale spa, with a little 10 table restaurant on the side.  Palm Herbal Cuisine is the choice for Japanese expats and housewife’s judging from the Japanese menus available.  Each dish was beautifully presented i must admit, although the taste was still rather authentic i preferred a more spicy intense taste.  The only thing that will prevent me from returning to this place is purely pricing.  Thai and Chinese people do not eat food separately, we usually do a sharing thing.  Most of the time we order a plethora of appetizers, entrees or fruits which is placed in the middle of the table.  If we are in a very formal setting the younger ones wait for the older persons to help themselves first, but luckily our family is very informal.

The menu!
The menu!
Pretty!
Pretty!

Tamarind Chilli paste with fried gourami fish and served with fresh veggies.

See the veggies?
See the veggies?

If you look closes, that’s morning glory thats like tied in a bundle, the white stuff i think is galangal, and the little big berries you se on top are different types of eggplants.  The zig zaggy thing on top is thai winged beans, crunchy and tastes kinda like our string beans but alot milder.  Tamarind is extremely sour and this now rather hard to find, it’s part royal cuisine and really traditional thai food.

Family Favorite
Family Favorite

This is really a family favorite, it’s fish cakes, it’s made from pounded fish mean and red curry paste with bits of string bean for color.  Usually they serve it in big patties but at this restaurant they really made it dainty and pretty.  Its usually eaten with a sweet chilli sauce with fresh cucumbers.  For presentation they fried either basil or kale leaves on top for a crunchy veggie taste.  The fishcakes taste rather mild, like fish balls with a more savory curry paste taste of all the herby roots in the paste.  It’s fishy, spicy, chewy taste is a good contrast to the sweet and crunchy dip and eaten with hot rice it’s yummies!

Impressive!
Impressive!

This is called Plaaa Goong, usually when a dish is called a plaaa, it’s served not so cooked.  Like a ceviche, usually this dish uses small prawns or shrimps to make it with a sweet red chilli paste (totally different from the ones used to make curry)  with lemon grass, shallots and winged beans, but they used a giant river prawn (hence the price tag).  The perfectly (Mattoom eggs) Boiled duck eggs with a runny yolk, the giant prawn was a perfect medium rare.  Eaten with the blanced eggplant it was a nice balance of all the flavors.  This shop has amazing presentation!

Mackerel - Everyone's favorite fish!
Mackerel – Everyone’s favorite fish!

Kapi is a thai shrimp paste which is the basis for many of the thai chilli pastes that are used to accompany the dips eaten at the table.  Not the paste for cooking the curries.  Every household would have their own receipe of pounding the paste which would be the pride of the lady of the house.  It is served with both fresh vegetables and veggies fried in an omelet style.  It was always made luxurious with the addition of mackerel fish and mackerel fish only because the flavours complemented each other perfectly.  Now at Palm Cuisine, it was nice but served in a central thai taste, more sweet.  I prefer the fiery taste of the south, so it’s really a perception and preference but all in all it was a homey yummy dish.

Can you imagine not ordering green curry?
Can you imagine not ordering green curry?

Kaeng Kiew Waan Neua – Sweet green beef curry, eat it quick before the beef over cooks!  Flavored with pea sized eggplants, which explodes in a bittery mouthful if you bite into it.  This is was wonderful, creamy, spicy with a coconuty hit with the beef, yummy over hot hot rice.  It is everyone’s dish which is always offered on the streets to thai haute cuisine.  You can not miss this dish!

See the chunks of crab?
See the chunks of crab?

This is really just a dish that screams luxury.  Chunks of crab stir fried with egg and spring onions, nothing else, just let the crab shine.  And wow does the dish shine!!!

Everyone loves tom yam
Everyone loves tom yam

The whole world knows Tom Yam Goong, well this is a traditional recipe.  One that uses tamerind instead of lime so it’s flavor and a more in depth dimensional taste to it, made with free range farm chickens, the only addition to it that scared me were unborn eggs.  See the yolk?  Yeah scary.  I didn’t eat it , just tasted the soup which was WOW btw….

Bakery... Of course!
Bakery… Of course!

They had a choice of desserts in their cake care, so we chose 2.  Notice how i like my strawberry and cream!  Imagine sinking in one of those chairs.  So comfy and cutesy!

Comfy Chairs
Comfy Chairs
Now this is what you call a successful fusion of tradition and modern.
Now this is what you call a successful fusion of tradition and modern.

Imagine, a ripe mango a delicate balance of sweet and sour.  Delicious sticky rick and a freezing coconut cream ice cream.  Wouldn’t you just sigh when you look at it?  OMG right???

Beautiful dessert! Creamy, fatty goodness!
Beautiful dessert! Creamy, fatty goodness!

It was a beautiful meal, if you were going to spend a bunch of money on fancy poncy thai cuisine, i’d say come here, they do serve great traditional thai food.  Service was excellent and chairs comfy and homey.  I would recommend getting a reservation though!