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Jun 17, 2012 07:51 AM

Green Champa Garden: laotian, lu-mein, thai [Fremont]

Green Champa Garden is an extension of oaktown's champa garden, same family

a cursory look at champa garden's menu shows identical entrees. green's menu is more limited, almost all entrees look thai, a few are obviously laotian.

Green Champa Garden's ambience is almost royally elegant. friendly, helpful service. parking lot is small. can get congested in the evenings.

location is between the hwy 880 and the irvington district of fremont, fremont blvd & blacow.

entrees cheap, portions generous

papaya salad, lao style(5.95)
-clumps of individual veggies, noodles which one mixes together
drunken noodle(5.95)
-thick chow fun noodles with some veggies, taste semi-sweet. semi-tart, some spiciness, fish sauce is mysterious condiment.

green champa garden
42318 fremont blvd.
fremont, ca. 94538

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  1. That may explain why I didn't see a single familiar face at the original CG last week.

    Looking at a photo of the menu online I see spring rolls and rice ball salad but no Lao sausages or Lue's noodle soup. Do they have Lao-style larp? My other favorite dishes are gone from the Oakland menu as well.

    18 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Lue noodle soup is Kaow Soy, which looks to be on the photo of Green's menu I looked at.

      What are your missing dishes from Oakland?

      1. re: drewskiSF

        #76 Gai Yang "Half a chicken marinated and chopped into many pieces." All the dishes from #76 up are gone. Lao sausages? I can't read the fine print on the menu photos. I guess mu ping ma nao was never on the menu in the first place.

      2. re: Robert Lauriston

        remembered larp on green's menu. didn't see the sausage.

        1. re: shanghaikid

          Do they have the choice of Thai- or Lao-style larp?

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            #37Larp....mixed mint, onions, cilantro, and lime juice. can be...with pork, minced beef, fish or minced chicken".doesn't explicitly say. these are the choices listed.

            1. re: shanghaikid

              The Oakland menu is #17 Larp - Thai or Laos Style. Laos-style beef larp includes tripe and fermented fish paste.

                1. re: shanghaikid

                  Yeah, I'm just saying the Fremont menu's missing a lot of my favorites.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Hi Robert. You may already know this, but in case other readers don't know, I'd like to provide additional information about laap for anyone who is reading along.

                  Laap/Larp/Laab/Larb - the many faces for the national dish of Laos:

                  Laap as a dish does not require any offal (i.e. tripe, gizzards, etc.). As someone who is from Laos, I can assure you that Lao people love contrasting textures in our foods. Therefore, we prefer to put things like offal in a traditional Lao dish like laap, but you have to remember that offal is something that is added to the dish meaning that it was never there in the first place until the person making the laap consciously adds it to the mixing bowl. So putting offal in the dish is just a preference, not a requirement. I've had plenty of so-called "Lao-style" laap that did not contain any offal at all because laap has nothing innately to do with offal, but the use of minced or chopped meats. Laap is a Lao word that means good luck. Having a large slab of meat on the table is not something the Lao particularly adore probably because of our Buddhist background, which is why we love a traditional Lao dish like laap because the meat has to be minced/chopped. It is believed to give good luck to the person who eats it, which is why laap is usually always served at Lao weddings and birthdays. Eating laap for good luck, health, and prosperity in Lao cuisine is similar to how the Chinese eat noodles because they believe it would give them long life. So if there is no offal at hand or the person making it simply does not like offal, then this laap version will be a simple laap rather than the "textured" or "exotic" kind with offal. Many owners of Lao restaurants want laap to sound exotic and unique by calling it "Lao-style" when adding offal, but in reality it is innately Lao-style with or without the use of any offal. In addition, the meat can be cooked or raw depending on the type of meat used in making laap.

                  Another common misconception is that laap cannot have any sour note. How much lemon juice or lime juice is added to laap depends on the person making the dish. Whether laap is non-sour, slightly, moderately, or super sour does not take away from it being Lao-style because laap in and of itself is innately Lao since it originated in Laos. How much sourness to add or whether offal is to be used is up to the Lao family's preference and it's also not rare to have at least one member of the family prefer her laap prepared differently than the rest of the family. Here's the thing about laap and sourness. It's not that "laap" cannot be tart or tangy, but that when it leans towards sour, then the dish is instead called "goi" in Lao cuisine. Goi is the tangy version of laap and is considered a separate dish in Lao cuisine despite the main difference being its more pronounced sourness. So if you prefer your laap on the sour side, simply ask for "Goi" instead of "Laap". Lao people would never go to a Lao restaurant and ask the waiter to make their laap sour. We would just order goi instead and save us the few extra words in having to tell the cook to modify the laap recipe. As long as the chef preparing Lao cuisine is a native Lao person or a foreigner who is thoroughly familiar with Lao cuisine, they will know what "Goi" is. Therefore, when a Lao person tells you that laap should never be too tangy or sour, what they should be telling you is that the dish is no longer called "laap" in Lao cuisine, but takes on a different name called "goi" in Lao cuisine. Lao restaurants should really be offering laap on their menus as either "Laap" or "Goi", rather than offering two supposedly different styles of laap when really one style is more tangy than the other and like I've already mentioned, the tangy version of laap actually has its own name called "Goi" and is treated as a separate dish. I'd like to think of it like this...a "tangy laap" is a "confused laap" that doesn't realize it's real name is actually "Goi" rather than "Laap". So would you rather eat a "confused laap" or simply just eat "goi"? =) There are at least two things that a waiter should ask you when taking orders for laap such as how spicy and whether to make it bitter (as some of you may already know, there are some people in Laos, especially men, who prefer to add some bitterness to their laap). So sourness is not something the waiter should be asking when taking orders for laap. However, if you're ordering goi, then it's okay to request that it be made according to your sourness preference.

                  The last misconception is that laap requires the use of fermented fish paste rather than simple fish sauce. Again, it really depends on the person's preference and the ingredients at hand. If I've got simple fish sauce in the cupboard, but no padaek (fermented fish paste/sauce), then I will make laap with simple fish sauce. If I've got padaek, but no simple fish sauce, then I will make laap with padaek. I've also made laap using both padaek and simple fish sauce in the same laap recipe. The fish sauce component is not what makes laap Lao-style or not because if someone is allergic to fish sauce/fish paste altogether, we can simply use salt and the dish will still be a dish called laap in Lao cuisine regardless of whether there is any fish sauce at all or what kind of fish sauce.

                  So the important thing is that the only true requirement for a dish to be called "laap"/"larp"/"laab"/"larb" is that the meat used in the dish has to be chopped or minced for the good luck aspect of it since, after all, the name given to this dish is from an actual Lao word for good luck, which again is "laap". If the meat is not chopped or minced, but sliced, then the dish now becomes a type of Lao salad called "Yum" and is no longer considered a dish of "good luck" because we want the luck to spread easily, hence chopping or mincing the meat. =)

                  In summary:

                  1) Laap (also "larp", "laab, and "larb") is a native dish of Laos and it's namesake is a Lao word for good luck. It is truly a staple food in Laos, which is why it's known as the national dish of Laos.

                  2) Laap has to be minced or chopped or else it becomes a different Lao dish called "Yum" or "Nyum". So there is no good luck if the meat is not minced or chopped.

                  3) Laap does not require any offal at all for it to still be considered a traditional dish.

                  4) Laap may be made with simple fish sauce, fermented fish sauce/paste, or salt.

                  5) Laap has a sourness limit, because when it leans more towards sour, then it takes on a new name called "Goi" and is considered a different dish in Lao cuisine. It's probably because no one wants to ask for their laap ("good luck") to turn "sour" when ordering the dish at a restaurant. =)

                  6) Laap should be ordered with these four things in mind: 1) "how spicy?", 2) "raw or cooked?", 3) "how bitter?", and 4) "with or without offal?". The waiter should never have to ask you "how sour?", because if you want sour, then simply ask for "goi" instead of laap. Remember, you do not want your good luck to turn sour. =)

                  1. re: yummyrice

                    Hey there, good to see a post from you again after too long away! We've had two chowdowns at Wat Lao Saysettha in Santa Rosa in recent months (you can search for the reports), and wonder if there are other Lao temples that have food festivals.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Hey you! Yes, it's been a long time. I'm glad to see that you're still around so it's good to know that there's plenty of good posts from you for me to catch up on. I will definitely check out those reports and see what else has been going on while I was away. To answer your question, there's usually Lao food festivals at the Wat Lao Rattanaram in Richmond. If it's not an actual "food festival", there's still usually plenty of Lao foods offered on the weekends. I don't know if it happens every weekend, but I've been to several of them already on the weekends. They're usually held right outside of the temple inside its parking lot area. I believe they had a festival about a week or two ago at the Wat Lao in Richmond, but I couldn't make it. For those who just want to try home cooked Lao foods, you could just go to any Lao temple on the weekend in the morning and offer donations if you like. Lao people would typically donate money or foods to the temples. The donated foods are then shared and served to the attendees for free in a communal setting. So it's a great way to sample Lao cooking and experience the communal and religious aspects of Lao culture.

                      1. re: yummyrice

                        Thanks for the info. I've enjoyed making the rounds of local temples, Laotian or otherwise, to have the chance to taste food cooked by immigrants for other immigrants.

                        And as far as Green Champa Garden, the subject of this thread, I just called to confirm and the grand opening is today as scheduled. The grill's on.

                      2. re: Melanie Wong

                        Hi, Melanie. Wat Lao Rattanaram in Richmond is having a food festival tomorrow. It's supposedly going to be a huge food event tomorrow at that Lao temple.

                        1. re: yummyrice

                          Thank you, is that Boun Khao Phansaa?

                          The temple in Santa Rosa will be observing it on August 4 and 5.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            You're welcome and yes, Boun Khao Phansaa is the Lao observation of Buddhist Lent so it's the same thing, but the Wat Lao in Richmond is holding their festival today or perhaps I should say earlier this morning. =)

                      3. re: yummyrice

                        Thank you for your long and detailed explanation. I really learned a lot from what you wrote, and always enjoy your posts. All the best to you! -- Tripeler

                        1. re: Tripeler

                          You're welcome and thanks for letting me know. If you're in the East Bay tomorrow, there's going to be a Lao food festival at the Wat Lao Rattanaram (temple) in Richmond, CA in celebration of Buddhist lent. There will be lots of people there and plenty of home cooked Lao foods. However, the food typically runs out fairly quickly due to the festival being held at a temple, so show up early, I'm guessing around 9-10 am, if you want to try most of the dishes, but there should be some dishes left around noon. It's hard to say for sure. The Lao temple and its festivals are open to all regardless of one's religion. Just go there for the food if anything. =)

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I'm finishing up lunch. Menu will be expanded by grand opening date. For now you can ask for Lao style laap. Lao sausage is available now. Lue noodles, didn't get a definitive answer.

              2. Thanks so much for letting us know about this new spot. I was in the East Bay on Monday and had a chance to try it for lunch. I was the only person eating there though I believe there were one or two take-out orders.

                Green Champa Garden opened in Fremont on June 9. The owner/cook is of Iu Mien extraction and the niece of Oakland's Champa Garden proprietor. She came out from the kitchen to talk with me, as I had asked my server many questions. She said that she owns this place herself and the two restaurants are independent businesses. I asked if her kitchen or front of house staff (all family members) had worked in Oakland, and none had. Her uncle had found the location, suggesting it as a business opportunity.

                I'd been to this address before, several iterations ago when it was H2 Noodle. While I’d taken note of your descriptors for the interior, I was still surprised. This place is far more attractive than any Lao restaurant I've visited to date.

                First up, Nam kao tod (fried rice ball salad) appetizer, $6.95. The crispy rice crumbles were darker in color with more seasoning than my recent example at the Lao temple in Santa Rosa. The peanuts were pale and not toasted. Very bright with fresh lime juice, and despite incorporating quite a bit of sausage and pork skin, once wrapped up in lettuce and fresh herb greenery the overall effect still felt light and lilting.

                Then, Kao soy, $5.95, made here with rich chicken stock and broad, fresh rice noodles rather than dried rice sticks for an extra luxurious, silken mouthful. I had asked about the highly seasoned ground pork topping that contrasted with the slices of plain poached pork. The owner explained that she mixes the ground pork with lemon grass, fermented beans, garlic, pepper, chiles, and other spices the day before. Then the mixture is formed into patties, fried, and crumbled apart onto the noodles. She said that this kao soy is made in Iu Mien style, not as heavy as Lao style and without the coconut milk of Thai style. I asked if she made it this way for her family, and she nodded saying that her son will not eat anyone else’s kao soy. I can understand why. I left a not a drop of this large bowl of soup noodles.

                With my bill, I was offered a complimentary taste of dessert of coconut milk, tapioca pearl, jackfruit and lychee.

                Overall, I was very pleased with this meal. Having posted recently about New Tung Kee Noodle, no question that I’d rather spend $5.95 on a bowl of kao soy here. The menu is evolving and the more items are due to be added. On June 29, Green Champa Garden will have a grand opening party, grilling outside with free samples to meet the neighborhood. They asked me to tell my friends . . . so there you go.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  nice report.
                  i didn't mention that the tables here are quite small. big & tall patrons with large appetities may feel cramped while dining.

                  1. re: shanghaikid

                    Thanks, yes, the tables are small now that I think about it. The owner mentioned that Oakland Champa Garden's owner had found and considered this location for his own expansion but decided it was too small. I also wish that I had asked her about any other dishes that are unique to Mien cooking. She will be beefing up the menu but I'd like it to slant away from Thai to her own native cuisine. But I imagine that commercial pressures require familiar Thai dishes on the menu for most clientele.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      I am going to try this place next! Sounds good!

                      1. re: Kelley

                        Please do ask about any other Mien dishes. When a restaurant's new, it's a good time to try to influence the menu.

                        Wondering if anyone went to last week's open house.

                2. Went on Saturday. They had some quite crunchy jerky off-menu, and were giving out samples of a fishcake salad. They were pushing the kao nam tod quite hard: almost every table had the dish. We also tried the tom kha gai, which was fairly bright, and the drunken noodles, which were less so -- they mentioned a rad na, also off-menu, that may have been more interesting. Excellent addition to the area; thanks to everyone who posted above.

                  edited to add: really cheap!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: bradluen

                    went early on the 4th, before the rush at noon.
                    -beef skewers with cucumber & peanut sauce (5/5.95-6.95?)
                    very tender, big slices, great value
                    -kao soy(5.95)
                    lu mein dish, subtle sauce, ho fun with diced chicken -fabulous
                    -nam kao tod(6.95) lettuce wraps with fried rice ball, roasted peanut etc.
                    better deal than the burmastar version.

                    off menu:
                    -lao sausage (3)
                    tasted ok, actually too full to eat this
                    -la nah chicken(6.25)
                    brocculi, chicken and ?, wet gravy and clumpy rice noodle. reminds me of wet ho fun.
                    -sa see wan(?heavenly beef)comped, very crispy beef jerky

                    all dishes tasted pretty good. jerky needs beer.
                    believed melanie convinced them to add lu mein & lao dishes, so owner was testing patron reaction before putting it on the menu.

                    1. re: shanghaikid

                      I also went on the 4th but after the lunch rush and before the dinner crowd. I think I was there around 4:30. I got the nam kao tod too and really enjoyed it. The staff were sure friendly. I mentioned that I would like to come back in a couple of days to get an order to go to take home to Sacto. To my surprise, they said they would not sell take out to go that far as the quality of the dish would be greatly diminished. I was actually impressed that they would care that much about their food and its quality!

                      1. re: shanghaikid

                        A few days ago I had Lao-style kao soy at Chai Thai in Oakland. It was $2 more (33% higher) and not nearly as tasty as Green Champa Garden's khao soy.

                      2. re: bradluen

                        I'm very happy to hear that Lao jerky is available. Could you please say more about the fish cake salad and did you like it?

                      3. We tried to go here last nite, but they were closed for a family emergency.

                        1. Enjoyed lunch here this week. The crispy rice ball was excellent and the portion was large. I also had an off menu beef soup with tendon, tripe and lemongrass. The soup was simple but concentrated, mixed with a bit of rice it was homey comfort food. They have several offal items off-menu and will add or adjust the organs as requested.

                          Ask for some of their chili sauce if you like things spicy. On an earlier visit I tried one of their thai style dishes and it was not very spicy. This time they gave me a side condiment of chopped chilis in a fish sauce -- it was extremely spicy. I'll definitely be returning.