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Oct 7, 2007 01:27 PM

Green Papaya Deli - Lao-Thai in Oakland

This is a relatively new restaurant on International Boulevard, attached to a Thai video store. The menu is very limited, which I think may be an advantage - one of the problems with Champa Garden is its massive menu - too easy to order something mediocre, and even the good dishes aren't consistently good.

I went for lunch, and only tried two dishes, but both were very, very good - a Lao-style papaya salad (it can be ordered either Thai or Lao style), and a beef larb. Both were well-balanced, although the larb was a little more intense (balanced, but intensely salty, sour, and spicy) than I normally like - I had to eat a lot of rice to clear my palate between bites. The papaya salad was just delicious - I love the flavor of fermented crab paste, though, so people who aren't into that should order the Thai-style, which is sweeter, and sans fermented crab.

When you order, they'll ask "how many peppers?" - I found five to be plenty for me (I'm a wimp) - I think it registered between a 2 and a 3 on Champa Garden's 5 point scale. My friends, who routinely eat spicy food, said they usually order 15, but have seen people go as high as 40.

Two dishes, plus 3 orders of sticky rice, were plenty for 3 people, and came out to about $5/pp.

The entire menu (we asked the owners to describe some of the dishes that didn't have English translations, but weren't able to get descriptions of everything - since the General Chowhounding Topics board came through for me with the Mongolian menu, I'll post the untranslated menu items there, too):

Papaya salad
String bean salad
Beef larb
Soup (tome keurng nai)
Chicken larb
Duck larb
Pork larb
Kao poont (noodle soup)
Sai Oaw (sausage)
Duck (pate tah bee)

Moke pa (best I can tell, sounds similar to Cambodian amok)
Som pug kaad
Som end
Soup nor mike (bamboo soup)

Chicken stick
Beef stick
Som moo
Dried porkskin

Green Papaya Deli
207 International Blvd (@ 2nd avenue)
M-Sat 9:30-9:00
Sun 10:00-8:00

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  1. Wow ... Thanks !!!

    I drove by and noted the name but not the address. Tried to find it on the web and nada. Then I couldn't remember where it was located since I was driving around a bit.

    It looked from the outside like a very clean, modern and nice place.

    Very nice to know it has Lao dishes. Will definately try it out.

    Green Papaya Deli
    207 International Blvd (at 2nd ave, Oakland, CA

    5 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      If you have a vague idea of the address (within ten blocks), it's possible gmaps street view would have images. Or, of course, the name of the video store, although I doubt I would remember that...

      1. re: Marc Wallace

        Thanks, all that registered was the name and it looked nice and I thought that of course there would be SOME info on line ... not ... well, until this report. I wouldn't have been able to narrow it down to 10 blocks or recognized it if I saw the exterior on line. I just knew it was somewhere in Oakland somewhere between 104th st and Lakeshore.

        1. re: rworange

          Never mind, looks like OP updated it with the address and hours -- 207 International!

          1. re: Marc Wallace

            For some reason the places marker has it on the other side of the lake. It's on the east side, kind of across from Pho Ao Sen and Segway of Oakland. It's not visible on Google street view, but it is right next door to Kenthao Thai Video, which is visible.

            1. re: twocents

              Yeah, looks like it is two blocks south from Wasabi (which lives up to its name.. when I asked for extra wasabi, the waitress brought out enough to feed a family of ten!).

    2. I had Lao papaya salad, sausage, and chicken sticks. The sausage was seasoned similarly to Champa's, but a bit more spicy, and the texture was coarse, with chunks of meat and fat as opposed to Champa's more smooth texture. I found it to be preferable.

      I'd been somewhat leery of ordering Lao-style papaya salad, but here it is welcomely salty, and milder than I had feared. Still, I prefer Thai style, personally. The crab paste or whatever adds a distinctly fishy note, but to me this version was actually less fishy overall than some Thai versions that go heavy on the dried shrimp. Composition was otherwise very good. They pound the shredded papaya when they are making it up.

      Medium spicy is not challenging to me, much less spicy than medium at Ruen pair, and on par or weaker than the most spicy I've had at Champa.

      Chicken sticks were pleasantly flavored, if mildly seasoned.

      Prices are about 10-20% lower than Champa, and as reported, the menu is much smaller. I didn't explore the specials at all. I will return, if I can get GF to agree.

      1. And the General Chowhounding Topics board comes through for us again - here's a nearly complete translated menu.

        Soup (tome keurng nai) ต้มเครื่องใน (cow/pig innard soup)
        Kao poont (noodle soup) ข้าวปุ้น isaan dialect for kanom jeen noodles (ขนมจีน) a type of fermented fresh rice noodle.
        Sai Oaw (sausage) ใส้อั่ว Northern style sausage. Pronounced more like sai ua.
        Duck (pate tah bee) She doesn't know this. I'm thinking it could be duck pate -- ie: leftover french influence food from Laos.

        Moke pa probably Thai Fish Hor-Mok ห่อหมกปลา -- like cambodian but spicier.
        Som pug kaad ส้มผักกาด : she thinks it's chiang mai dialect for pickled cabbage like chinese giam chai
        Som end don't know what this is
        Soup nor mike (bamboo soup) ซุปหน่อไม้ It's actually 'sup nor-mai' a 'salad' made from pickled bamboo shoots (nor-mai). Not a soup. It's tasty.

        Som moo don't know what this is, but 'moo' is pig/pork
        Dried porkskin หนังหมู (deep fried pork skin - northern food eaten with chili paste)

        9 Replies
        1. re: daveena

          Som moo is "sour/fermented sausage." You've probably seen related preps in Viet delis. Champa has this though maybe not in whole sausage form, I think it's the main component of Yum Nam there. I think it's probably also similar to the Thai sour sausage I've had at Thai House Express (Larkin), which also appears in a Fried Rice there. If you Google "som moo" a pretty nice Lao cooking website comes up, and there is a video of the guy making it.

          1. re: daveena


            There as one error in the transliteration of the Thai into English. The Som Pug Kaad (ส้มผักกาด) should actually be Som Phak Kaad. 'Som' means 'sour soup'. 'Phak' by itself means 'vegetable' but when combined with the 'Kaad' it becomes the Thai word for 'leafy vegetables' like cabbage.

            1. re: daveena

              Those dishes are actually Lao dishes, which is why the names are Lao names transliterated into English.

              Thom Keung Nai: Lao innards soup
              Khao Poon: Lao curry noodle soup
              Sai Oua: Lao pork sausage
              Pate Tah Bee: Lao duck pate
              Moke Pa: Lao steamed fish wrapped in banana leaf similar to Cambodian "Amok" and Thai "Hor-Mok", but Moke Pa is lighter as no coconut milk is used
              Som Phak Kaad: Lao pickled veggies, most likely cabbage
              Soop Nor Mai (aka "soup nor mike"): Lao shredded bamboo shoots mixed with herbs and spices.
              Som Moo: Lao pickled pork sausage with thinly sliced pork skin.
              Kiep Moo: fried pork rinds eaten with Lao papaya salad.

              Thai language is similar to Lao language, which is why there tends to be some confusion whenever someone reads off the names of Lao dishes. Just keep in mind that Central Thai cuisine has incorporated Lao dishes from the Isaan region of Thailand. So it's quite common to see Lao dishes served at Thai restaurants, but those Lao dishes (Larb salad, etc..) will usually be classified as Thai "Issan" food or incorrectly described as a generic Thai dish. Thai cuisine is influenced by the cuisine of Laos, which is Thailand's neighboring country.

              Anyway, Lao and Thai dishes are generally very tasty and flavorful.

                1. re: daveena

                  I forgot to mention that Lao papaya salad must be eaten with sweet sticky rice to tone down the strong fish taste and spices from the papaya salad. Use your hand to flatten a small chunk of sticky rice and then scoop up the papaya salad with your clump of sticky rice.

                  Thai-style papaya salad is meant to be eaten as a standalone dish, whereas Lao papaya salad is made salty because it's meant to be eaten with sticky rice and a meat dish.

                  1. re: savan

                    Thanks so much for this tidbit of information. I've had Lao style papaya salad several times, some nearly stained black from copious amounts of fish sauce. I concluded that I didn't like it because I found it far to salty and pungent to enjoy. I shall give it a try again with sticky rice.

                2. re: savan

                  CORRECTION: I think I've made a mistake. The "Pate Tah Bee" dish is most likely grilled duck coated with bile to make it taste bitter. "Pate" is most likely Green Papaya Deli's transliteration of the Lao word for duck, which should've been spelled as "Bpet". Furthermore, "Tah" means to coat and I believe "Bee" means bile.

                  UPDATE: I went to Green Papaya Deli last night and the owner was extremely sweet and friendly. She asked for my feedback and was willing to modify the dishes to suit my taste. I felt that the Lao papaya salad was a little too pungent and salty than what I'm used to when eating Lao papaya sald. Every Lao person makes papaya salad differently. The version that I prefer is the Vientiane (Central Laos) version, which one can order by requesting the papaya salad to be "som som, wan wan", which means "sour sour, sweet sweet" or just "sweet and sour". I forgot to tell the owner that I wanted the papaya salad to be "som som, wan wan" so I ended up with something that was a little bit too salty and pungent for my taste buds, but it was still good. Again, one should always eat papaya salad with sweet, sticky rice. You should also mix in the rice noodles to balance out the papaya salad.

                  I also tried the Pad Mee Lao (Kua Mee) which is Laotian pan-fried carmalized noodles topped with sliced egg omelette. It was very simple, but tasty.

                  The beef larb (cooked version) was pretty good and authentic especially since it had tripe and other innards in it. In Lao cuisine, larb should be eaten with sweet sticky rice to tone down the saltiness. If you prefer regular steamed rice but would like your larb to be less salty, then just increase the rice to larb ratio when taking a bite with your spoon. In addition, there's many versions and recipes for larb in Laos. There's a dry version, moist version, bitter version, sour version, salty version, etc...depending on the region of Laos the chef is from. Some Lao cooks use dill and mint leaves in their larb, but there are those who don't. So if you have a specific larb version that you're craving, then definitely ask the owner or chef to accommodate your request.

                  I didn't try the Mok Pa (steamed fish wrapped in banana leaf), but I would like to say that dill is an herb that is frequently used in Lao cuisine and especially in the Mok dishes. Dill is called "Paksee" in the Lao language. In the Thai language, I believe dill is known as "Pakchee Lao" because dill isn't commonly used in Thai cuisine.

                  I also didn't get to try the Lao sausages because they had run out. I've eaten Lao sausages at Vientian Cafe and Champa Garden, but I definitely prefer the version at Vientian Cafe since it seemed more authentic though not exactly like the original version. I prefer the original version of Sai Oua (Lao sausage) which contains chunks of fat and pork rinds. I'm hoping that the version at Green Papaya Deli is even more authentic than the Vientian Cafe version. The version at Champa Garden is tasty, but I didn't like the texture because it was just too smooth. Lao sausage should have a chunky texture.

                  1. re: savan

                    Champa Garden's sausage seems chunky to me.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I was actually referring to the texture of the sausage filling and not the actual thickness of the sausages. I'm not sure if you've had authentic Lao sausages before, but the filling should not have a smooth texture. The sausages should be stuffed with coarsely chopped pork, pork fat and pork rinds including the typical Lao herbs like lemongrass, kafir lime leaves, etc.. The problem here is that Lao restaurants in the U.S. tend to use ground pork or a food processor to blend the pork meat with all of the ingredients, whereas in Laos the sausage filling is hand made. That is, the pork is chopped by hand, which gives it a nice and chunky texture. Using ground pork or a food processor results in an unsatisfying texture for those who have had authentic Lao sausages before.

              1. Second visit. Again, really good.

                New dishes for me this time were the duck larb, the sai oaw, and the moke pa. Unfortunately, they didn't have a lot of the dishes I was interested in (the kao poont, the soup nor mike, the som moo, and the pate tah bee). On a Saturday night, it seemed like we were the only patrons who were not family, so maybe they need more customers before they'll start regularly offering the more labor intensive dishes.

                Anyway, I liked the duck larb, but preferred the beef version - the duck seemed to muddy the flavors a bit. Still tasty, though. The moke pa was really delicious - spicier than the Cambodian amoks that I've had, and less sweet (no coconut milk, compared to the Cambodian version). The sai ouw was as twocents described - coarse, fatty, and flavorful.

                It's probably just as well that the other dishes weren't available that day - the three dishes above, plus papaya salad, left me with enough leftovers for two dinners.

                2 Replies
                1. re: daveena

                  Did you get Papaya Salad Thai or Laos Style? How was it?

                  1. re: DezzerSF

                    I got Lao style again - it was a little less funky than when I ordered it with friends who are regulars at the restaurant (the first time I had it, you could smell it from across the table), but it was still delicious.

                    Oh, and I forgot to mention that the salt level in the larb was more manageable for me this time around.

                2. I went for lunch today and tried the beef larb & sticky rice. I ordered the larb "spicy" but I think they could have kicked it up a notch. Still, it was quite tasty and a sprinkle of lime juice made it perfect. I loved the saltiness of the larb with both the cabbage and sticky rice. I wish I had ordered papaya salad but my coworker wasn't that hungry and I was hesitant to order too much for lunch. It was best I didn't since the larb portion was quite filling. I'll definitely be back for somtun after I saw them pounding it fresh in the mortar; their menu says "Lao-Thai somtun and food to go".

                  The owner mentioned that they would be removing the homemade food section of the menu. I'm hoping he only meant for lunch!