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Lao menu at Bangkok Golden in Falls Church - Report

s
Steve Dec 1, 2010 12:05 PM

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.

  1. Kurtis Mar 6, 2014 05:12 PM

    I have returned here on several occasions including yesterday and had consistently great meals. Continuously changing specials are the tickets for return trips for us. Several outstanding dishes to share here are:

    1. Fermented Fish: I had this as a cooked version and topped with fried slivers of galangal and savory sauce it was an elegant and very delicious dish. Looking to try the raw version some day. Chef Seng remembered that I had inquired about this on previous visit and suggested that I try it. How nice is that!

    2. Pickled Pork Belly: the sauce and galangal is the similar with the fermented fish dish above, and add fried kaffir lime leaves. The pork belly is quite delicious chopsticked along with mentioned garnishes. Again balanced in flavors show elegance that's uncommon in thai dishes.

    3. Somtum (thai) with pickled crab: one of our favorite somtum was to be had here yesterday as a special. Sucking on the pickled raw crab meat can be an acquired taste but heavenly for those who enjoy this.

    4. Som Pak Kard (Lao Kimchi): lightly fermented green with galangal and thai chili adding extra flavor. Nice clean and cool, with crunchy bite of the green was refreshing 1st course.

    5. Woonsen Tom Yum Soup: this was a quite a delightful find. Great balance of sweet and sour that while not a full-on attact to the tongue but very soothing and comforting with much depth to the broth. House-made pork meatballs gives nice break to continuous shlups to the bottom of the bowl.

    6. Duck Larb (Lao Menu): beautiful smokey flavor came through this deliciously juicy duck. For me this is the best among the larb family here.

    It was a fully packed night yesterday around 7:30pm.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Kurtis
      s
      Steve Mar 6, 2014 07:01 PM

      Quite the parade of fermentation!

      The som pa (fermented fish) is a great dish, and it's exceptional raw, but she doesn't always have that on hand. It takes 3 days to prepare.

      The som pak kard I've never seen listed. Always many interesting specials here. Must try the duck larb.

      1. re: Steve
        Kurtis Mar 7, 2014 01:06 PM

        Flavors of fermentation/pickle here is quite subtle, not pungent as in fish sauce or korean bean paste. It's almost unnoticeable in flavor, but texture and taste at the finish brings it out more. Yeah, I think you tipped me off to the fermented fish, and the raw version.

        Chef Seng's kitchen has a soul, passion, and a lot of love. A rare find.

    2. Kurtis Jan 30, 2014 12:41 PM

      Following your rec, this is another great find for us on the level of Grace Garden, so many many thanks! For our first visit we ordered from your favorites and they were fantastic! We did order a few specials and they were:

      1.Sai Ova Som: spicy sour pork sausage. This is the sour version of an existing sausage on the Laos menu, and the server cautiously guided us to try it which we readily accepted. It's similar E Sarn sausage we tried in the best of NYC thai joints, but this mildly sour and plump one is hands down the winner: accompanying fresh ginger and condiment of mashed smokey roasted green pepper is a marriage of the best kind.

      2. Water Cress Salad: crispy deep fried WC leaves with mango, cashew, shrimp in tammarin sauce. This one, different from the Sripraphai version (Queens, NY), has minimal stems and literally no batter and so not greasy. Also the dressing here is tammarine rather than lime/garlic/ginger base.

      3. Kaipen w/ Jeow bong: I read about this one on one of the threads on CH, and it was very nice that chef Seng sent this one out for us to try.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeow_bong

      It's not just the surprising food but the caring staff and thoughts from the chef that makes one feel at home even on a first visit. We did try the som tam off the thai menu as a measuring stick, and while it may be a notch down compared to versions from Ayada or Zaab Elee in NYC, still packs a great flavor, and incomparable to the ones in Baltimore.

      Edit: I am told the daily special can be followed on instagram under chefseng or Bangkok Golden

      2 Replies
      1. re: Kurtis
        s
        Steve Jan 30, 2014 01:19 PM

        Gald you enjoyed it. The grilled pork neck (only on the paper menu near the cash register), has now become a staple here. It needs to be marinated for a long time, and it shows. Completely delicious. Herd to resist. Combine that with the beef jerky and sai oua, and you have entered the gates of meat heaven. The bamboo dish on the menu is now regularly smoked, and it too is wonderful. She sometimes makes a beef orm that is smoked, and that is divine as well. Calling in advance for this is a good idea.

        I have never seen kaipen there before, you mean the seaweed dish? Awesome!

        1. re: Steve
          Kurtis Jan 30, 2014 04:36 PM

          Oh we didn't skip the pork neck : ) I've had a version nearly as good at Lers Ros (SF) last year, but this definitely edges it out for sure. Gotta try the jerky, huh?

          One revelation for us with the rice wrap dish was the use of young/green eggplant raw as one of several condiment which adds a tart bite; a familiar vegetable used completely differently. Nice use of raw lemongrass too.

          Kaipen was described to us as river weed which tasted similar to seaweed. It was likely baked, with a layer of sesame on top for extra crunch. Worked well w/ Jeow bong and slices of cucumber. Japanese and Koreans have similar as a snack which this is.

          Looking to try the fermented fish among many other favorites and specials.

      2. alkapal Jun 20, 2013 08:43 AM

        As good as always, this place. Anyhow, they have some recipes on their website, so I thought I'd give you the heads up. http://bangkokgolden.wordpress.com/20...

        I also learned in our visit the other day that one can always request the "Crispy Rice Salad 'Special'" with the Lao Sausage. That stuff is the BEST! Ask for it Lao hot and your ears will blow off. Be sure they've gotten their BeerLao shipment in!

        1. alkapal Dec 26, 2012 09:38 AM

          i don't know who cocinerita is….but i just saw this review of our chowhound lunch…with photos!

          excellent! http://www.cocinerita.com/bangkok-golden/

          i also found this interesting review of a lao food cookbook (while i was searching for a recipe for the amazing rice ball salad with laotion sausage) . http://www.galanga.com/bookReview/dxa...

          2 Replies
          1. re: alkapal
            s
            Steve Dec 26, 2012 12:25 PM

            Cocinerita is helenahimm on Chowhound, but she has become vegan and is no longer likely to be active on this Board.

            1. re: Steve
              alkapal Dec 26, 2012 11:32 PM

              i thought it might be helena. i noticed a lot of vegan stuff on her facebook page. ruh-roh. ;-). ok, steve, more for us!

          2. m
            MikeR May 26, 2012 04:04 PM

            Just walked past Bangkok Golden today and saw a banner in the window advertising fresh sugar cane juice. Just in time for Summer!

            1. h
              Hillbeans Jun 7, 2011 12:01 PM

              I have no idea why we have never attempted Bangkok Garden. Steve, your picks sound really good. Have you or anyone gone for the lunch or dinner buffet? Any other recommendations?

              18 Replies
              1. re: Hillbeans
                s
                Steve Jun 7, 2011 01:00 PM

                It's actually Golden, not Garden. There are three different locations for Bangkok Golden, but only the Seven Corners location has the Lao menu.

                In general I avoid buffets, and I have not had this one. The buffet food is Thai, not Lao, and this is in principle a Thai restaurant where the folks who run it also offer a separate Lao menu.

                1. re: Steve
                  h
                  Hillbeans Jun 7, 2011 01:50 PM

                  Sorry for my mispelling. I must have read it wrong! Are the Lao menu items pricey?

                  1. re: Hillbeans
                    s
                    Steve Jun 7, 2011 06:14 PM

                    Menu is here:

                    http://www.bangkokgolden7corners.com/

                2. re: Hillbeans
                  alkapal Jun 7, 2011 04:13 PM

                  hillbeans, the thai buffet *looked* good when we had a chow lunch there -- with a good variety. the noodle dishes included pad thai, of course, and my fave pad kee mao. those dishes were not too plentiful, but i noticed them being replenished more frequently (a good thing). i also noticed that several thai people were having the buffet the day we were there. mr. alka and i intend to try it. they also have an evening buffet (maybe only on weekends?). the weekday price is $8.95, and dinner $12.95. i don't know what the dinner buffet has on offer.

                  1. re: alkapal
                    h
                    Hillbeans Jun 8, 2011 07:56 AM

                    Thanks alkapal. My boyfriend is thinking more buffet. I'm thinking more Lao menu.

                    1. re: Hillbeans
                      alkapal Jun 8, 2011 08:18 AM

                      well, that's the beauty of the place -- he can do buffet, and you can do lao menu! that was good of steve to post the menu.

                      don't miss the lao fermented fish (it was in our chow feast, but maybe it is an "off menu" item). and their fresh-made sausage. they're both very yummy (my review is upthread). the crispy rice salad is unique and tasty, too. the orm (stew) is really complex, although it doesn't look very appetizing....

                      1. re: alkapal
                        h
                        Hillbeans May 25, 2012 07:17 PM

                        We are back in town again and have yet to try Bangkok Golden. I have tried a few Thai dishes elsewhere and for some reason I cannot acquire the taste. We really want to try the Lao Menu, but I don't want to waste a lunch if i know I won't like it. Any recommendations on what to order or should we go elsewhere?

                        1. re: Hillbeans
                          p
                          PollyG May 25, 2012 07:28 PM

                          Hillbeans, what is it about Thai food that isn't doing it for you? What have you tried? On the whole I find it a very accessible cuisine--I love the citrus and heat, and the lightness of many of the meat/veggie/noodle salads, which tend to be more marinated than oily. A lot of the Lao dishes at Bangkok Golden are like this--heavy on the flavor, not on the oil.

                          My sister-in-law, who did Peace Corps work in both Thailand and Laos, tells me that a lot of the Thai dishes that I love so much for the interplay of lime, lemongrass, ginger, and heat are really Lao dishes.

                          That being said, I've had some pretty awful food claiming to be Thai, mostly not in this part of the country.

                          1. re: PollyG
                            h
                            Hillbeans May 25, 2012 07:44 PM

                            It has been awhile and unfortunately I cannot recall specifically. The dishes all seemed to have a coconut taste and I am not a fan of coconut.

                            1. re: Hillbeans
                              s
                              Steve May 25, 2012 09:38 PM

                              The Lao dishes at Bangkok Golden do not use coconut milk, and the cuisine mostly avoids the 'sweet and sour' component that is so prevalent at Thai restaurants. The Lao eat sticky rice, which they ball up with their fingers and combine with raw and plainly steamed vegetables, spicy sauces, and savory main dishes. Lots of raw ingredients like peanuts, ginger, cabbage, and lemongrass, are essential in Lao food.

                              The top three dishes from the regular Lao menu are the nam khao (rice ball salad), mieng muang luang (rice paste wrap) and the khao piak sen (chicken noodle soup). The sai oua (sausage) and the beef jerky are wonderful too.

                              In addition, there is a Lao language menu -with some English- which has grilled pork neck (off the bone) which are spectacular. They are marinated for a really, really long time. Also from this menu, the dried pounded fish is a stunner.

                              Off-menu (you just have to ask) my favorite dish is the som pa (fermented fish) which is truly great ordered raw - but damn good cooked as well. The raw has a magnificent, meaty texture like a really fine ceviche - so it does not have a raw 'feel' to it like sushi.

                              Go crazy and order lots of stuff. You won't regret it.

                              1. re: Steve
                                h
                                Hillbeans May 26, 2012 12:49 PM

                                Thank you so much for the recommendations. We ordered the Sai Oua, Koi Pah and the grilled pork neck. Our favorite hands down was the pork neck. We loved the Lao sausage. The fish was delicious and very spicy. We will definitely come back to try the others. I Really wanted to try the Ping Lin, but they did not have it today. Thank you!! We'd go back tomorrow, but I need my A&J!!!

                                1. re: Hillbeans
                                  s
                                  Steve May 26, 2012 03:26 PM

                                  The ping lin (tongue) has to be ordered in advance. Next you should try the rice paste wrap, which is a unique dish with no equivalent that I've ever tasted.

                                  Glad you liked your meal.

                                  1. re: Steve
                                    h
                                    Hillbeans Oct 21, 2012 06:26 PM

                                    We have gone several times and have tried most of the things recommended. Steve and a few others speak of things on a secret menu and different specials made per request. We are planning another trip in Nov. and we would love to try something different. I thought about this during our last meal, but I did not know how to ask for either and would love some suggestions. Some of the waitresses appeared confused when I asked them previously about things that were not on the Lao menu.

                                    1. re: Hillbeans
                                      s
                                      Steve Oct 21, 2012 06:47 PM

                                      In addition to the regular Lao menu, which is very nicely printed and in a professional menu sleeve, there is an additional menu that is on copy paper in a page protector. You'll have to ask for that. On top of that, there are some things she can usually make that are not on any of the menus.

                                      One of my favorite dishes is som pa (fermented fish) which is not on any menu. It's best raw, and has a meaty texture like a ceviche. It's really great. If she doesn't any fresh, she sometimes has it pre-made and frozen, in which case the only way to get it is fried. It has a very difrerent taste like that, but still delicious. If you know you are going, you can call in advance and ask for the som pa and she will make sure she has some on hand.

                                      There is also a dried pounded fish which is great - I've seen that on the copy paper menu - but always ask if you don't see it. This is different from the pon pa (pounded fish) which is also a unique and satisfying dish. Also on the copy paper menu is a liver and pork skin larb that is spicy and delicious.

                                      I recently had the bamboo shoots wrapped in banana leaf from the regular Lao menu, and it was great, so even I am discovering new things each time.

                                      1. re: Steve
                                        h
                                        Hillbeans Oct 21, 2012 07:16 PM

                                        We actually tried the fermented fish and absolutely loved it. I have asked for several things off menu that you have mentioned, but they look at us funny everytime and appear confused. This is why I wanted to ask before trying to go further outside of the box. They also have a Facebook page and post all kinds of "specials" the chef makes.

                                        1. re: Hillbeans
                                          s
                                          Steve Oct 21, 2012 11:14 PM

                                          Since you already know to follow them on Facebook, you should ask to speak with Seng when you get there. She will be happy to guide you through any confusion.

                              2. re: Hillbeans
                                p
                                PollyG May 25, 2012 09:49 PM

                                As Steve said, Lao dishes tend to not use coconut. The only Lao dish I can recall that did were some astonishing pork ribs we had at a now-defunct Lao place years ago at a chowdown; the one member of our group who had declared that she did not like coconut scarfed down more than her fair share of those.

                                Staff at Bangkok Golden are eager to share their joy in their native cuisine, and if you tell them you do not care for sweet or coconut, they will steer you clear of it.

                            2. re: Hillbeans
                              m
                              mdpilam May 25, 2012 07:31 PM

                              I have to say that if you don't like Thai, you most likely won't like Laotian.

                    2. alkapal Mar 4, 2011 06:15 PM

                      thought you all would like to see another good-looking lao dish -- with some info about the "trademark" lao herb blend: http://www.zesterdaily.com/cooking/84...

                      1. t
                        takadi Feb 28, 2011 10:56 PM

                        I just ran into this thread and it is driving me wild! I must stop by this place and try it.

                        1. s
                          Steve Dec 30, 2010 09:44 AM

                          Two more dishes I've tried:

                          khao piak khao: rice porridge version of the khao piak sen. Not on the menu. Only to be ordered on a cold day, when the intense warmth can carry you over any chill that Mother Nature blows your way. Similar flavor as the noodle version, but probably not as wondrous.

                          fish roasted in banana leaf wrap. On the menu. Served with lettuce, noodles, and other items to make a wrap. Fish comes out with a glaze, a tiny bit spicy. Very nice flavors. If you do only one wrap, though, get the rice paste.

                          1. s
                            Steve Dec 18, 2010 11:49 AM

                            More Lao items form Bangkok Golden:

                            Beef Jerky: Not super chewy or dry. Luxurious, dark brown, crispy, slightly fatty logs of marinated beef. A perfect meal if paired with a spicy salad and ask for some dipping sauce.

                            Fried som pa*: Fried version of the fermeted fish listed above. Blissful flavor, think grilled kim chee. I am tempted to order both the fried version and the raw version at the same meal.

                            Tom Muer*: A 'kitchen sink' dish of whatever vegetables, protein if you like, and vermicelli in a super spicy sauce. For the daring only. You cannot eat a whole plate of this or even half a plate.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Steve
                              KWagle Dec 18, 2010 02:19 PM

                              I could eat a whole plate, if it were drier. :D But I admit it would take me a while. The one thing i didn't like about it was that the broth didn't stick to the noodles very well. I generally prefer my chow fun to be dry style as well.

                              Well, okay, not the only thing. I felt the spicing wasn't complex enough to warm my whole mouth. Among Thai dishes, I generally much prefer the cold salads with a more balanced mix of flavors. I do want to get back there and try some of the curries.

                              1. re: Steve
                                p
                                PollyG Dec 18, 2010 04:25 PM

                                I wouldn't call the fried som pa anything like grilled kim chee (which is great in its own right)--it has a wonderful citrus flavor on top of the fermented fish taste. This dish certainly tempted me to be a poor dining companion--the whole thing could have easily gone down my gullet.

                              2. s
                                Soup Dec 18, 2010 09:28 AM

                                I know everyone is very excited about hte Lao menu and bangkok golden but let me just say I actually think they have a pretty strong Thai buffet.

                                1. Richelle Dec 11, 2010 05:00 PM

                                  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
                                    alkapal Dec 11, 2010 06:04 PM

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

                                  2. s
                                    Steve Dec 9, 2010 08:38 PM

                                    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
                                      alkapal Dec 10, 2010 08:47 AM

                                      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 taste...at 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
                                        s
                                        sweth Dec 10, 2010 09:44 AM

                                        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
                                          alkapal Dec 11, 2010 07:39 AM

                                          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: http://www.vitalrecipe.com/view/ii317... 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
                                            s
                                            sweth Dec 11, 2010 05:49 PM

                                            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:

                                            http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_1T9YXyM1Bfw/SplUiYzBLQI/AAAAAAAADO0/eFowyzOSm7M/s1600-h/samtom001po3.jpg

                                            on this page: http://recipe-thai.blogspot.com/2009/...

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

                                            1. re: sweth
                                              alkapal Dec 11, 2010 06:21 PM

                                              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
                                                alkapal Feb 19, 2011 07:49 AM

                                                i enjoyed this blog post about som tam and its variants..including a little discussion of femented bamboo. http://eatingasia.typepad.com/eatinga...

                                      2. re: Steve
                                        hill food Dec 13, 2010 03:03 AM

                                        "Smoky and powerfully spicy. Made me cry. "

                                        tears of joy I hope.

                                        1. re: Steve
                                          KWagle Dec 15, 2010 04:46 PM

                                          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
                                            t
                                            takadi May 7, 2012 12:02 PM

                                            "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
                                              s
                                              Steve May 7, 2012 01:15 PM

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

                                          2. r
                                            reiflame Dec 4, 2010 04:33 PM

                                            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. r
                                              reiflame Dec 2, 2010 07:51 AM

                                              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
                                                s
                                                Steve Dec 2, 2010 08:49 AM

                                                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
                                                  alkapal Dec 2, 2010 09:10 AM

                                                  steve, did you see the new laotian cookbook i posted about? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6899...

                                                  1. re: Steve
                                                    r
                                                    reiflame Dec 2, 2010 09:28 AM

                                                    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
                                                      s
                                                      Steve Dec 2, 2010 11:14 AM

                                                      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
                                                        alkapal Dec 10, 2010 08:54 AM

                                                        yes, they have beerlao, lager and dark.

                                                        1. re: alkapal
                                                          r
                                                          reiflame Dec 10, 2010 09:11 AM

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

                                                          1. re: reiflame
                                                            alkapal Dec 10, 2010 09:23 AM

                                                            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
                                                              r
                                                              reiflame Dec 10, 2010 09:35 AM

                                                              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
                                                        t
                                                        takadi Feb 28, 2011 11:09 PM

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

                                                    2. w
                                                      weezycom Dec 1, 2010 03:32 PM

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

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: weezycom
                                                        s
                                                        Steve Dec 1, 2010 10:27 PM

                                                        A few doors down from Hong Kong Palace.

                                                        1. re: Steve
                                                          alkapal Dec 2, 2010 08:33 AM

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

                                                          1. re: alkapal
                                                            s
                                                            Steve Dec 2, 2010 08:44 AM

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

                                                            1. re: Steve
                                                              alkapal Dec 2, 2010 09:09 AM

                                                              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.

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