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Dec 1, 2010 12:05 PM

Lao menu at Bangkok Golden in Falls Church - Report

Two things to get out of the way:

First, profuse thanks to Tom Sietsema for uncovering this gem.

Second, even if you can't stand a molecule of spicy food, go here and get the kao piak* (chicken soup with homemade noodles) and the rice paste wrap. This will be an astonishing meal that might change your ideas about culinary skills. If you want to add spice, ask for some jeo (dipping sauce) on the side.

If you go, it's important to eat the non-spicy food first, because once you get to the spicy food, you won't be able to taste anything else. I also ordered the goi pa fish* (listed sneakily under 'larb'). This is a very spicy ceviche of shredded tilapia. Excellent preparation with lots of fresh sliced lemongrass. Comes with a basket of sticky rice.

*Do not go by my spelling.

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  1. Location, please? I read 7 Corners, but up top, down below or in the strip to the side?

    4 Replies
    1. re: weezycom

      A few doors down from Hong Kong Palace.

      1. re: Steve

        is that the thai place that has (had) a lunch buffet?

        1. re: alkapal

          Yes, lunch buffet. But I did not take a look at it.

          1. re: Steve

            years ago -- and i do mean YEARS -- i had the buffet. i never went back, though it wasn't TERRIBLE.

            hope this is new ownership. anyway, i'm looking forward to the chowdown.

    2. I'm so excited! I was in Laos last year and am really looking forward to eating at Bangkok Golden. That said, I thought Laoatian food was lacking a little bit of a distinct cultural identity, but I suppose that's what happens when you spend the last 500 years being invaded by the Siamese, the Vietnamese and then the French.

      9 Replies
      1. re: reiflame

        Most of my experience with Lao food comes from Sandy at the now-defunct Canton Gourmet Express. Much of her food involved intricately cut raw vegetables, keeping in line with certain holistic principles of well-being. I have read this is a hallmark of Lao food.

        In terms of distinction, the northeastern part of Thailand used to be Laos, so the people, culture, and cuisine of Issan Thai and Laos are one and the same, IIUC.

        1. re: Steve

          steve, did you see the new laotian cookbook i posted about?

          1. re: Steve

            Do you need to request the Lao menu? I'm going to head out that way on Saturday. Do they have Beerlao?

            North western Laoatian and Issan are similar, but there's also a pretty strong French influence a la Vietnamese. I didn't get very far south, so I can't comment there, but the food in Phonsavan in the central highlands was very different than what you found on the Thai border. There's still a large Hmong presence up that way.

            1. re: reiflame

              Yes, you request the Lao menu. Almost every new face they see requests it, so by now they expect it. I don't know about the beer.

              1. re: reiflame

                yes, they have beerlao, lager and dark.

                1. re: alkapal

                  Yep, I asked for it and it was delivered. I miss paying $.80 for the big bottle, though!

                  1. re: reiflame

                    aah. 80 cents, huh? i'm guessing that ours was just a wee bit higher. (i didn't see individual prices, as steve and pappy checked the bill, figured a nice tip, and divided it by 12).

                    1. re: alkapal

                      Honestly the food at Bangkok Golden was better than most of what I ate when I was over there. I miss the frog-on-a-stick, mystery-meat-on-a-stick (it was possibly chicken intestine?), fried mulberry leaves, water buffalo curry and banana pancake (not really a pancake) but the refinement at Bangkok Golden was far above anything I ate over there.

                      Also you can only buy Beerlao and Carlsberg beer in Laos. Their rice whiskey, Laolao, ranges from watery to potent, and it was generally served to you in a used Beerlao or water bottle.

              2. re: Steve

                Speaking of Canton Gourmet, is Sandy permanently out of the restaurant biz?

            2. We went today and it was pretty excellent. Absolutely worth the drive from Gaithersburg to Seven Corners. Their Lao menu should be on the website soon; I don't remember the names of everything we ate but everything was extremely good.

              1. Twelve Chowhounds got together today for a meal of Lao specialties at Bangkok Golden. We shared a dozen dishes.

                Still fresh in my mind is a Lao meal we had at the now-closed Canton Gourmet Express. I would say the major difference is that Sandy at CGE was a champion BBQer, so her chicken and ribs had a gorgeous thick bark. The rest of her dishes were cruder, but packed with intense flavor. The dishes at Bangkok Golden showed a mature sophistication and refinement. Only one dud in the bunch.

                Khao Piak Sen: Chicken soup with homemade noodles

                Rice Paste Wrap- this is an elemental dish, I could eat this every day.

                Nam Khao – Rice Salad with pork – a great dish. I dare anyone not to love it.

                Ping Gai – Grilled Chicken with jeo (dipping sauce) and papaya salad. Dippingsauce was very thick and rich.

                Ping Lin:* Grilled tongue: soft, delicious. Served with a bitter dipping sauce. Nuclear bitter. You have been warned.

                Banana Flower Salad*

                Som Pa:* fermented fish, one of my favorites, bright with red chili and sliced ginger

                Pon Pa:* pounded fish. Surprisingly complex.

                Koi Pa: Marinated shredded fish salad, served raw, like a ceviche. A classic.

                Orm Lai:* Thick, herby eggplant stew. Ordered this with beef added. Rich.

                Soup nor mai: a bamboo shoot dish (not a soup), tastes fermented,. Hardly anyone touched this. Not as good as we had at CGE, but still an acquired taste. I’m surprised this is on the regular menu.

                Sai Oua: Laotian sausage. Supple, fragrant, spicy. Seemed like it was made this morning. Awesome.

                And last but not least, a jeo bong* dippjng sauce served with sticky rice. Made with smoked chili, galanga, pork , cow skin(?). Smoky and powerfully spicy. Made me cry.

                *special ordered.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Steve

                  thanks to steve for organizing the chowdown!

                  here are my thoughts:

                  the grilled chicken dipping sauce was delicious with the tender, flavorful and moist chicken. i wish they sold the sauce alone for take out (which i'd bet they would do...). it was good with the sticky rice alone, too. i'd use it as a component for home stir-fry dishes, or to add to a chicken soup....or....mix with yogurt (!) for a condiment, or...any number of things. i'm certain that it would prove to be a very versatile herbal spice blend in the kitchen pantry (refrigerated, of course).

                  we also had som tum, with a deeper flavor than the thai version that i'm used to. instead of pounding in dried shrimp, i'm almost certain this version used fermented shrimp paste. (seems that the laotians like "fermented."). i prefer the thai version, as it tastes cleaner to me. (i guess that i'm not a "fermented" fan, though i do like kim chee). it was "hot," though!

                  aaah, the "bamboo shoot dish." steve is not quite accurate: we DID touch it -- long enough to smell it (putrid) AND taste it (someone mentioned smelly gym socks + durian + garbage can smell). we couldn't get it off the table soon enough.

                  the sausage was really a thing of beauty, subtly flavored...very fresh. it is a stand-out winner in my book. i'd buy this sausage to make some sandwiches on crusty french baguettes! the sausage is defintely an "order again" item.

                  i think THE standout fave at our end of the table was the "fermented fish." it was complex, had a firm and pleasantly chewy texture, and an interesting flavor (somewhere in there a hint of lime, but more earthy and perhaps galangal?). i'd definitely order this dish again. (the "pounded fish" was fine, as was the marinated "shredded fish salad." i'm a ceviche fan, but the lao version is drier, with less lime in the flavor mix, too).

                  crispy rice salad was tasty, crunchy, very savory from pork, but with the brightness of lime. the dish used whole crispy rice, unlike the thai ground toasted rice that i'm used to in the thai beef salad, for example. refreshing. it was fun to eat, and i'd order it again.

                  eggplant stew with beef was fine, a dark, murky liquid with dark chunks of eggplant hidden beneath, and a subtle spice combination. it would, however, not be on a repeat menu for me. it just didn't stand out in any way to me, other than being like a deep-brown-almost-black stew.

                  mr. alka liked the grilled tongue, but i was not a fan of the texture. the
                  "wicked bitter" sauce was indeed bitter (with some of that "fermented" action going on), and very hot. the other sauce with the dish was not very assertive in all. in fact, while it SEEMED like it should've had some heat and some sweet, it was not really either.

                  most surprising: the use of dill in some of the more "larb"-like creations. one of our party identified it in the rice salad, i believe. there is less basil use than the thai food, and a big reliance on shallots, ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir lime (leaves and maybe the juice from fresh (?) with that subtle lime flavor that wasn't "persian" lime nor "key" lime). on the whole, the laotian food seemed "darker" in flavor tones than thai food i've had (i know that will drive many of you crazy, using the term "darker"). maybe that sense of flavoring is due to greater use of fermented products and techniques, and/or to a greater variety of herbs and spices (in more complex blends) for the various dishes.

                  i didn't take notes, but when the photos get posted (by our special chowhound photograpapher ;-), i'll be able to connect some more details to particular dishes -- like which one had the nice, raw baby eggplant and matchstick galanga (or ginger, though much milder than ginger).....

                  we tried the lao beer (called "beerlao" strangely enough ;-) , and it was fine for the purpose. the lighter beer was a lager style some compared to a beer like singha (i think singha is hoppier); they had a medium dark beer with a slightly sweet flavor that i thought worked well with the flavors of the dishes. try each; that's what we did. (for *very* good beer, head west down route 7 to the mad fox brewing company, not too far away).

                  all in all, a fun time, and interesting experience of new flavor combinations.

                  the proprietors could not have been nicer.

                  i did check out the buffet while there, and the buffet was plentiful, and had many patrons who were thai or laotian.... it had kee mao and spicy beef salad, along with larb and spring rolls and several other dishes... don't know the price.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    The eggplant & ginger were (along w/ shallots and peanuts) accompaniments for the rice paste dish, all of which were wrapped up in lettuce leaves like a Thai miang dish.

                    And I think the som tam that came w/ the ping gai was made w/ fermented fish sauce, not shrimp paste.

                    Also, for reference, I think I was the only one at the table that didn't mind the bamboo salad; funky Asian fermented foods are definitely an acquired taste, but once you get that taste, they work well as a counterpoint to some of the other strong flavors you get in Asian food. I honestly would rather that that and the jeo bong have been on the table as condiments to mix with some of the other dishes (although I did like the way the meal progressed from the lighter flavors to the stronger ones).

                    All in all, a good find. My favorites were probably the Som Pa, the Koi Pa, and the Orm Lai.

                    1. re: sweth

                      sweth, the color of the restaurant's lao som tum dish gives away the shrimp paste component. i'm sure that it had fish sauce -- a traditional component -- but the typical thai use of dried shrimp was here in the lao version replaced with the shrimp paste, giving that murky orange-ish color.

                      for those who want to try it at home: for what it is worth, the restaurant's version was even darker and more orange than this one in the video.

                      (i prefer using dried shrimp rather than shrimp paste myself).

                      1. re: alkapal

                        That color can also come from using pla ra, or fermented fish sauce, which is different from nam pla, the normal fish sauce that most places in the US use; see, for example, this pic of Som Tam Thai Pla Ra:


                        on this page:

                        To me, at least, the flavor was more of a pla ra one than a kapi (shrimp paste) flavor.

                        1. re: sweth

                          sweth, thank you for educating me on pla ra. i'm interested to learn more, and will also do more googling. but you have opened my eyes (taste buds) to an ingredient which i had read about before (the "pickled mudfish" version), but had never tasted (to my knowledge.).

                          i guess the bottom line: fermentation is the sine qua non! ;-).

                          it makes me want to begin a thread about "fermented" foods or condiments (beyond pickling, i guess). pickling stops the fermentation, right? another interesting chowhound rabbit hole. ;-)). this is why i love chowhound and exactly why mr. alka gets so crazy.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            i enjoyed this blog post about som tam and its variants..including a little discussion of femented bamboo.

                  2. re: Steve

                    "Smoky and powerfully spicy. Made me cry. "

                    tears of joy I hope.

                    1. re: Steve

                      Seng says the souB normai on the regular menu is nothing like the dish you had. She's not surprised nobody liked it. And as you just discovered, the sausage probably *was* made This morning!

                      1. re: Steve

                        "Ping Lin:* Grilled tongue: soft, delicious. Served with a bitter dipping sauce. Nuclear bitter. You have been warned."

                        I haven't tried this yet but I highly suspect that the dipping sauce might be flavored with bile

                        1. re: takadi

                          You are correct. Not on any regular menu, made special for us.

                      2. I want to thank the Washington Chowhounders for inviting me along! What a memorable experience, first having the chance of meeting other chowhounders and then eating Laotian food! It was a first for me and I was happy if at times careful of trying out the new foods.

                        Like the others, I really enjoyed the Rice Paste Wrap, the wonderful crunch and flavours in the Nam Khao, then indeed the dipping sauce for this dish, (grilled chicken), Ping Gai, was complex and yumilicious!. I loved the Koi Pa for its bright flavours and the Pon pa was really one of the greatest surprises. The Som Pa was also quite good, and with all these new flavors and heat, if I had blocked sinuses, it would have cured that!

                        Again, thank you for inviting me...It was most excellant!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Richelle

                          richelle, it was so fun to have you join us. serendipity!