Chowdown at Wat Lao Saysettha - Save room for dessert! (Santa Rosa)
Chowhounders met again at Wat Lao Saysettha for the food festival preceding Boun Kao Phunsaa (laotian Buddhist Lent). The space wasn't as elaborately decorated as the times we came before, but the tables were decorated with vases filled with fresh herbs that were both beautiful and flavorful.
We shared a delicious Pho (Fer), Nam Kao (rice salad), and green papaya Salad - all of which I've had there before, The Pho (Fer) was particularly good this time.
New to me was the rice noodle soup (Kao Poonh), spicy broth was made with pork and chicken and contained potatoes, bean sprouts, fermented bamboo shoots, long beans and other bits of vegetables.
Since I had ordered the "Lao hot" version of the papaya salad (and it WAS HOT!), I ordered a Boba (a milky slightly sweet drink with chewy tapioca, much like bubble tea). I got the nutty flavored taro, another in the party ordered the coconut.
Alas, the other hounders had to leave before the deserts were ready. The first desert I tried was a sweetened sticky rice flavored with pandan leaves which gave it a light green color and a slightly herbal taste. After that I ordered banana fritters. These were amazing! Bananas coated in batter and fried perfectly - the batter contained sesame seeds and the nutty, crisp coating on the sweet gooey banana was a wonderful contrast in texture and flavor.
Come join us at our next outing. Keep an eye on the Bay Area Events posts to see when the next one is.
This was my first chowdown, and it will not be my last -- a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I loved the soups; both were rich and tasty and just right for an oddly gray and chilly August day in Santa Rosa. I had the medium hot version of the papaya salad. It was addictive and hot enough that I wasn't tempted even to try the "Lao hot" one jackiecat so bravely faced. I had to leave, so I missed the desserts. I also missed the grilled chicken wings, which I had been hoping to taste. Good reasons to back next time.
Thanks for being our faithful scribe, jackiecat. And what a delight to meet bonjohn, referred to us by JustineR.
Here’s the menu for the day,
When I saw the long-boiled beef knuckles and tender tendons, I knew I had to order the pho (fer) on this gray and chilly day.
Catching a whiff of the aromas boiling out of the cauldron of stock was added incentive. The stock was lighter in color than the earlier example at Lao New Year.
Each table was set with a bouquet of dewy fresh shiso and basil sprigs to garnish our noodle soups and the rice salad.
This time the fer was made with the thin type of pho rice noodles. Quite top heavy with meats including tripe, chunks of tendon, meatballs, brisket, and flank but no rare steak. I didn’t miss it. This was more to my style preference and I liked it much better than the previous time.
Nam kao, the crispy rice ball salad, was less elaborate this go-round sans peanuts, pork skin or dried red chile pods. Not very crispy either, perhaps it was dressed and packed too far in advance. Still tasty but not as incredible as before.
An order of two green papaya salads was our chance to try "Lao hot" vs. medium-spicy. They looked the same, but the Lao hot one on the left in the photo was definitely spicier. Delicious but more firepower than I could stand and the cooling coconut milk boba provided welcome relief.
This version of Kao poonh was the non-coconut milk variety with a thin, tomato-y broth. While no shredded cabbage was offered on the side to mix in, the soup came with many vegetables, including long beans and the crunchy hollow stems of raw water spinach.
Sorry to have missed the fried bananas, hope they make a return appearance on the food festival menu.
Things moved a bit slower this time and the cooking crew seemed sparse. Now that I’ve been here three times, I feel as though I should pitch in and help the church ladies. I asked whether it would be possible to volunteer and learn some Lao cooking secrets and the ladies seemed enthusiastic. So next time, I think I’ll bring an apron and lend a hand.
If you’d like to connect with other North Bay chowhounds and help plan future meet ups, sign up for the chowdown distribution list on yahoo groups.