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Jul 20, 2008 03:16 PM

Fresno’s B & K Asian Kitchen: Got Lop?

After a bite of Hmong sausage at Asian One, , and then a brief stop at the Vineyard farmers market , , I headed south to meet up with “david kaplan” and Eric at B&K Asian Kitchen for a Laotian lunch. The young waiters were smartly attired in black t-shirts imprinted with “Got Lop?” on the backside.

The not-so-subliminal advertising was effective and we immediately turned to the Lop (a.k.a. larb) section of the menu. We asked our waitress for help in picking out the Lao dishes from the Thai. I also did my best to convince her that “david kaplan” was from Laos and that the kitchen should hit us with the full spice level.

The first dish was my favorite, #24 Koung nap pa, $9.50, raw shrimp with ginger chili sauce on a bed of lettuce and green papaya.
On a bed of shredded green papaya and cabbage, the butterflied sweet raw shrimp each rested on a slice of tomato. Each one was dressed with a lime and shallot spicy fish sauce dressing, and more dressing was offered for an extra dip.

Next up, #37 Beef lop with book tripe, $8.95 and #40 Sin lot with roasted tomato-chili sauce, $8.50, as shown here.
Before we ordered the lop, the tripe-adverse among us wanted to know if it would be possible to eat around the book tripe. Our waitress assured him that it was in good-size strands and could be picked out easily. As it turned out, he tried it and discovered that he likes book tripe and had no problem with it. Bright with zingy lime juice and fish sauce, a good amount of roasted rice powder, and oodles of fragrant herbs, this was a terrific example of lop. It was good with the accompanying raw cabbage. I’ve not had book tripe in lop before, and now I’ll be craving it this way.

Our waitress seemed like she was steering us away from the sin lot, but we’re glad we persisted. Deep-fried dried beef, this was still tender at the core beneath the hearty chewiness and crispy exterior. The roasted tomato-chili sauce on the side had a good kick. I thought it was better than the last time I had the dish at Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas, where it tends to be inconsistent.

My least favorite offering was #30 Papaya salad, $5.50.
Quite a generous serving for the price, the shreds of green papaya were well-pounded with the seasonings and tomatoes. Now having tried this version and a couple others, I’ve concluded that I’m not a fan of the Lao-style made with the extra pungent fish sauce and dark carmelly dressing.

I also had an ice tea with lime. Made with red Thai tea, but instead of sweetened condensed milk, it was sweetened and flavored with fresh lime. Interesting, but I don’t think I’ll order it again.

We had excellent service here and thought everything was prepared well. This is a great place for chowhounds and I look forward to returning. Our only regret is that we can’t find Lao food prepared this well in our own town of San Francisco.

B & K Asian Kitchen
1276 N 1st St, Fresno, CA 93703

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  1. I wanna go home. Thanks, Melanie. You're invited to my house for laab as well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      You'll be home soon, no? Trying to churn out these late reports before your visit.

      I'm a bit skittish about accepting an invitation from one with a reputation as a Lothario, but since I imagine that cooking skills had something to do with those seductions, I would have a hard time saying "no" to larb.

      Coming from the interview with my first Hmong informant, I can't believe that I didn't ask the folks here if they were Hmong from Laos. The kao poun dish on this menu sound like the Hmong dish khaub poob. The owner's name is Khong Douanghoupha, per the business card attached to the take-out menu. This unfinished bit of ethnographic mapping is in your hands to complete.

    2. My mouth was watering as I read your review, thank you... next stop - B & K.

      1 Reply
      1. re: fresnohotspot

        The raw shrimp dish can also be ordered with cooked shrimp.

        The book tripe in the lop was handled so well, I'd be tempted to order #21 Yum keung ni, an appetizer of book tripe, garli and onions seasoned with chili and lime.

        The lop (also available in chicken or pork) and the sin lot were in the BK's Specialties section of the menu. Besides those two, the other dishes are #38 Nom tok, beef medium grilled, sliced and served with sauce; and Yum nua, beef medium grilled, sliced, tossed in lime juice, chili and green onions. Our waitress was trying to steer us to one or the other of those instead of the sin lot, based on her own personal preference.

        She said that her favorite was #9 Mee ka tee, rice noodles in chili sauce, ground pork, coconut milk, cabbage, red chili and crushed peanuts, if we wanted something really HOT. The two other noodle dishes that we were interested in but had to pass on are #7 Kao piak, handmade rice flour noodles, chicken, topped with green onions and fried garlic; and #8 Kao poun, rice stick noodles served with mild chili sauce, chicken, coconut milk and ginger. I've had kao piak at other Lao restaurants, it's basically comfort food, soothing chicken noodle soup.

        I'm also wishing we'd ordered #36 Fried rice koung kapi, steamed rice fried with shrimp paste, shrimp, sweet pork topped with egg over easy.

        [I've been carrying the take-out menu around in my purse for two months . . . it's going in the recycling bin now.]

        1. re: KenWritez

          We had to show too much restraint in ordering, as we were in town for the fabulous dinner at Hunan that night.

          Hope all you gentlemen will post on your experiences there. I'd love to hear about the other dishes. Oh, forgot to mention that we also had sticky rice, which is traditional with this style of dishes.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I have had two flavor filled lunches at B & K since Melanie's post made me salivate. My first experience was the chicken Phad Phet, a curry dish prepared with bamboo shoots, chili paste and sweet basil. The curry had a hint of fish sauce and coconut milk, and was served with steamed rice 8.50. The subtle heat allowed me to savor the different ingredients, and it was not until halfway through the dish that my scalp started perspire, it was delightful. The portions are generous and for lunch I think this dish can be split with a partner along with an appetizer. The diner next to me raved about his Yum Pa Meuk, squid appetizer prepared in chili, lime and onion.

            My second visit, I tried the Beef Lop with book tripe 8.95. I found this delicacy to be incredibly refreshing on a warm day because of the heavy use of lime, and mint leaves, with roasted rice powder. For those who may be put off by the tripe ingredient, believe me this dish is not what I would label exotic. The portion was perfect for one. The wait staff was friendly and attentive. I will definitely be returning. Fresno hounds should count themselves lucky that there are so many good Viet/Lao/Cambodian eateries in this section of town, near First and McKinley.

            1. re: fresnohotspot

              Great post, thanks for adding to the collective intelligence on this spot. Since then I've learned that the salty and pungent Lao style papaya salad is designed to be eaten in small amounts with sticky rice and not alone. I guess I'll need to revisit this dish and see if I like it any better with the proper accompaniment.

              When you have a chance, I'd love to hear more about Cambodian eats in the area, maybe start a new thread. I had noticed a banner flying outside a place around the corner from Pho 99 offering hu tieu nam vang, which is the Viet version of a Khmer (Cambodian) noodle soup, and wondered what else might lie within.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Got a small scare the other day when a friend mentioned he thought B & K had just closed or been sold. I immediately rushed down there and found out it was just a rumor. The upside of the incident was another couple of great lunches. I tried the Nom Tok, a version of a beef salad, served with a dressing (sauce) of lime juice, chili and green onions. The slices of beef were served medium well with a mound of fresh basil, cilantro and chinese cabbage. I was kindly instructed by my waitress how to put together the "Asian taco". A couple of beef slices are first laid on the cabbage leaf, add basil and cilantro to taste, a dribble of the lime sauce, close up the wrap and munch. This is a refreshing dish for a warm day and I really enjoyed the hands on approach. I ordered a side of steamed rice to balance the tastes and really enjoyed the dish. The portion was perfect for one person, 8.50.

                I returned the next day and tried the Keang Ka Le, 9.95, which comes with a choice of steamed or sticky rice. This was a generous portion and could easily be shared with another person, if you order an appetizer or side dish. This is a chicken dish served in a very rich yellow curry, with potatoes and onions. The curry did not have much heat, but can be ordered in the spicier version. It had a base of coconut milk and did not have the fish sauce background which I found prevalent in the restaurant's other dishes, The small chicken pieces were served boneless, and I longed for my mother's curry served with whole chicken parts and a thicker sauce.

                The staff in this restaurant is really pleasant to deal with. I learned the owner is Lao, and that most of the Asian restaurants in the area have been changing ownership, although most of the owners are Vietnamese. The nearby Pho 99 is owned by a Cambodian, but there is no true Hmong cuisine restaurant in town.

              2. re: fresnohotspot

                Likewise, Melanie's post and the pleasant drop in temperature earlier this week was just the kick in the pants I needed to get back to B&K.

                Dining alone for lunch had to limit myself to two dishes. Went with the Yum Pa Meuk (9.50), Squid seasoned with lime, chili, and onions on a bed of lettuce, and the Mee Ka Tee (7.95), Rice noodles in chili sauce, ground pork, coconut milk, cabbage, red chili and crushed peanuts. Knowing I was ordering enought for two people I asked for medium spicing in order to allow LadyPB to enjoy the leftovers that evening.

                The calamari was outstanding and spicier than I expected, so I felt obligated to finish it off and save my sweetie from any discomfort. A wonderful blend of flavors, heat, and sour from the lime. The Mee Ka Tee also had great depth of flavor with sweetness from the coconut milk, which I knew would be a big hit at home. It was even better when she added some pieces of left over barbequed chicken that had been brined for a couple of days.

                I'm now determinded to work my way through the menu, even if it has to be just two items at a time, or maybe go with four and take home a full dinner for two as well, ahh... decisions, decisions.....