11/3 Boun Ork Phansa Chowdown Report: Laotian Street Food at Wat Lao Saysettha in Santa Rosa
With blue skies and 75 degrees forecast in Santa Rosa yesterday, five chowhounds rallied in the outdoor pavilion at the Lao temple for the food festival marking Boun Ork Phansa, the end of the three-month Buddhist Lent. The menu for this holiday included mostly new items, and we managed to try everything but the Pho (Fer) that some of us have had here before.
Logistical changes included use of ordering slips and a posted description of each dish. More non-Laos have discovered the food here and these help move things along.
Let me share the list of items with photos for others to add their comments.
Laab Kai, $5
Green Papaya Salad, $5
Sticky Rice, $2
Fried Banana and Yam, $5
Kao Tom Mad, 10/$5
Wrapped and ready for the steamer
In the steamer
Unwrapped, steamed sticky rice with banana center
Post-feast Chowhound contrails
The profits from these fundraisers go toward the temple’s building fund. During the last festival, the work started on the cement paving surrounding the temple and one side is complete. Here’s what it looks like so far, you built that.
* * * * * * * * *
More about Boun Ork Phansa celebrations
Next food fair: Boun That Luang November 24/25
Previous chowdowns at Wat Lao Saysettha
I enjoyed the sunny and friendly environment at the temple with fellow chowhounds. My favorites of the dishes were the Tiger Salad and the chicken laab. Melanie noticed the bitterness in the Tiger salad, though for me it was only in intermittent bites. We couldn't figure out what it was coming from, and the head cook didn't know how to translate it, but apparently it is available in Mexican markets. I guessed bile based on a vague memory of previous chow threads (maybe this one http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/448557 ?) and the fact that it wasn't visible. In any case, the balance of flavors and tastiness of the beef it was a winner. I was also pleasantly pleased with the angel wings. I've never ordered them before, perhaps because of their ubiquity at standard Thai restaurants, but these were very well executed. The meat was moist and not overdone, the skin was crispy, and the filling tasty.
They also have a table selling homemade/home gathered goods. Last time I picked up some (very spicy, with what I believe is beef or buffalo skin as it is not completely clear like pork skin) jaew bong and a variety of Zanthoxylum (the genus of Sichuan peppercorn) that is somewhat more citrusy in fragrance and darker than Sichuan peppercorn. This time I picked up some homemade som moo (sour sausage) and met the woman who had made them. I hope these and Melanie's advice (and the Lao woman who made the rice ahead of time mentioning that she added some salt and sugar to the cooking rice while cooking) will help me with my current nam kao obsession. Last time I tried to fry my rice balls they exploded all over my kitchen.
My favorite was the beef salad which was very good with a slight bitter edge. I could have used a little more heat and I think I need to remember that for next time. The chicken laab was a nice change as well.
The angel wings were a pleasant surprise as I usually find them very heavy in Thai restaurants. The filling was light and pleasantly herby with cellophane noodles and lime leaves, I think.
The kao soi was quite good with an interesting garnish of deep fried rice cake. I liked it rather better than the pho but not as much as the kao piak that Melanie made two festivals ago...
Fun time with Chowhounds and great food to boot. I'll echo tm's sentiment--- the Lao community members were super friendly and welcoming.
The Kao Soi was probably my favorite item. Pretty sure I've not eaten this dish before. I could hardly get enough of the meaty broth. The fried rice cake was a welcome accompaniment. Kind of like good sushi, the grains held together yet weren't too densely packed.
Second favorite would be the papaya salad, which in terms of freshness and balance of flavors, outranks the (few) papaya salads I've eaten in the past. I'm now understanding the popularity of this dish.
They did a nice job deep frying the Angel Wings and egg rolls, neither of which was too greasy, and both of which were very good. In retrospect, I should have tried dipping the Angel Wings in the tangy sauce accompanying the egg rolls.
I've only had chicken and beef larb before, so I was wondering whether chicken would provide a strong enough flavor in the Laab Kai. It did, and Melanie pointed out to me that it was because it had gizzard in it.
The Kanom Kok had an interior that seemed too wet, at least compared to the equivalent dish at the Thai temple in Berkeley. The outside was nicely crisped.
Great time overall and well worth the trek.