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Sep 9, 2012 02:20 PM

Chowdown report: Wat Lao Saysettha - Lao home cooking rules! (Santa Rosa)

Chowhounders gathered again and attempted to sample every foodstuff at the fundraising food sale for Boun Kao Padupdeen (a festival honoring ancestors).

The quality of food was again outstanding with a complex blending of flavors and textures in every dish - and all made primarily if not wholly by non-professional cooks.

I'd had beef laab before, but this time there was the option of having the beef cooked or raw. The grilled chicken wings were as wonderful as ever as was the grilled sausage. New to me was Kao Piaj (chicken soup with home-made rice noodles prepared with the help of our own Melanie Wong.) The texture of the noodles was almost meaty, I loved them. Also new to me were fish with noodles wrapped in herbs and lettuce served with Maklen Jaew tomato sauce and a slightly sweet waffle flavored with pandan. The save room for desert course this time was sweetened sticky rice stuffed with taro paste and wrapped in a banana leaf and then roasted. The roasted banana leaf flavor permeated the rice and was delicious!

I really enjoyed spending the afternoon with the hounders and their friends. If you are interested in joining us at next time at Wat Lao Saysettha make sure you sign up for the North Bay chowdown distribution list at The next event is scheduled some time in late September.

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  1. Had a great time dragging three friends along with me. This report isn't going to be superdetailed since it was smack in the middle of a weekend of insane noshing with a friend visiting from out of town.

    The sausage was sold raw--thanks to melanie for having them grill some so we could have it with sticky rice. The sausage was a bit loose with large pieces of lemon grass, lime leaf, fatty skin, and other herbs tucked inside. The ungrilled sausages are stored in the freezer for future enjoyment.

    My favorite item was the kao piak, which was particularly good with a generous helping of chili paste and fried garlic. The tapioca/rice flour noodles made the soup pleasantly thick without being excessively gluey (Melanie promised to post a recipe/tutorial). The light stock (chicken or pork based, I think) came with cubes of blood (fresh and unfunky), shreds of chicken, and garnished with green onion. I had really been craving that exact noodle dish, so it really hit the spot. One tip: they make it fresh to order. When it comes to the table, drop whatever you're doing and dig in. It is much tastier hot than at room temp, as the texture of the noodles and the soup suffers as it cools.

    Second favorite was the grilled chicken wings which according to melanie (who was an able volunteer) were marinated overnight in a spice paste that included lemongrass and some other things I'm forgetting.

    The larb was good both cooked and raw though I preferred the cooked to the raw. The raw was fresh and clean with a slight bitter edge that I found pleasant. The cooked larb was bright with lime juice and just fine if raw makes you nervous. Better yet is to ask for half and half!

    I highly recommend making a trip here some time. People are awfully friendly and willing to share details about a cuisine that isn't that common in the states. Kind of like taking an impromptu trip to se asia. With a decent bathroom to boot!

    7 Replies
    1. re: sfbing

      Here's the photo of the two kinds of jaew available for sale in a tub.

      The dark one is jaew bong. Do you remember what it's made of? I didn't catch the name of the other or what the ingredients were.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        What they said re: jaew bong: chili, beef, onion, garlic, ginger.....and some other things

        the other one was "fish and pork"

        both to be eaten with sticky rice

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Just a tidbit of information, the northern Lao variety of "Jaew Bong" (or "Jeo Bong") tends to be sweeter than the southern variety because southerners tend to prefer theirs on the saltier and spicier side and also with a stronger galanga flavor.

          1. re: yummyrice

            Thank you, and I still need to post the recipe for khao piak.

            This particular festival was the first time that I'd had the beef larb with raw beef. For the raw version, something very bitter was introduced. Some of us thought it might be bile, but from where? Appreciate any insight into this.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              You're welcome.

              Yes, please share the recipe for khao piak as it is fairly easy to make IMO especially for fresh noodles in a simple, garlic-infused broth. I love making khao piak in the winter time.

              The raw version of beef larb is most popular in the southern parts of Laos compared to the northern regions because northern Lao people usually prefer to eat cooked pork. And if northerners make beef larb, it's usually cooked. Bile is one of several ingredients that may be used to add bitterness to a dish. Raw beef larb usually uses more fresh galanga than the cooked version to help mask the rawness of the beef because of galanga's astringent property.

              1. re: yummyrice

                I meant to say "khao piak sen" for the noodle soup, since "khao piak" usually refers to rice soup ("khao piak khao").

        2. re: sfbing

          Lao-style chicken wings are usually marinated in a spice paste consisting of lemongrass, garlic, optional black or white pepper, and optional Lao chilies. Sometimes shredded lime leaves, ginger, or fresh cilantro are also added as well. There's more recipes out there including using yellow curry powder/paste, but those ones are the most common because they're easy to make, but go so well with chicken wings.

          For the marinade, just create your own blend from the following options: fish sauce (and/or salt), a little bit of sugar, and optional oyster sauce and/or Maggi-style soy sauce. I also enjoy adding garlic powder to the marinade.

          Coat the chicken wings with your spice paste and then add your marinade.

          For an even easier recipe, you don't need a spice paste. Just add some crushed or minced garlic to your chicken wings and then add some fish sauce and sugar.

        3. thanks for the report! I wanted to attend this, but had work to catch up on. Hoping to make it the next time.

          1 Reply
          1. re: majordanby

            9/29 - Boun Khao Salak food sale and full moon festival, Wat Lao Saysettha, Santa Rosa
            This may be the last one of the year.

          2. Here's the slideshow

            More details when I come up for air.