There’s one Lao dish that reigns supreme over them all – I’m talking about laap.
The mix of meat – both cooked or raw, vibrant herbs, mouth flaming chilies, lime juice, sticky rice powder, and often some bile to spruce things up. This combination of wonders is something Laos should be proud of.
In this article I am going to share with you the details of an amazing restaurant in Vientiane that serves one of the best plates of Laotian laap you’ll ever eat.
Pa Kham Than Restaurant, authentic local food in Laos’ capital city – Vientiane.
It was lunchtime on our final day, and still a long list of places people had recommended to us, but this is truly one of the best restaurants we ate at in Vientiane.
We were hungry for a certain plate of Laap (you might also see laap written commonly in English as larb or laab, but really laap is the most accurate Romanized translation of the Laos word) and though not a rare dish, we wanted one with a few special ingredients – a perfect plate, specifically including bile.
A recommendation from a fellow foodie and new friend Joe turned out to be marvelous, so let me quickly say a big thank you.
It might seem that a restaurant specializing in digestive juices would be tough to come across… but not here! Laos’ cuisine does a wonderful job of using every single part of an animal, literally from head to toe, nose to tail.
Now for the food.
Getting straight to business, this restaurant doesn’t play around. The menu has less than a dozen items on it, and that includes the drinks.
We ordered some fried pork, a bowl of sour bitter soup, a plate of blanched cow intestines, and several different kinds of Laap. All that you need on a warm day in Laos, but be sure to clear your afternoon schedule because after a meal like this, you are going to want to just sit and smile awhile.
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Share a Beer Laos, and Toast Your Laap Excitement
A cold BeerLao is always a great mid-day treat, and we shared a bottle of it while building our excitement for this lunchtime throw-down feast.
The dishes began to arrive, starting with the Moo Yang – grilled marinated pieces of pork, but this plate also including a few special organs.
You would struggle to find a better beer snack than this dish right here. It made us even more hungry for the coming plates of Laap.
Next came the Sin Luak, blanched intestines, so delightfully chewy.
The meat is cut thin but dipped in boiling water so quickly that it retains a soft, near-raw texture. The plate came with a complete mix of parts and we got some sections of intestine, a bit of rubbery stomach, and a several rich bites of liver.
…and then the Laap Pai Arrives
And now, finally, the dish we had traveled for – Laap Pia, the familiar pork salad flavored by a ladle full of green and brown digestive juices, the cow bile so loved by both the heart and tongue of Laos people.
By the time we arrived, early in the afternoon, they had already sold out of the raw version. So we settled for the cooked pork laap, not a bad thing to settle for.
The powerful bitterness was backed by a slow-burn from those entire raw chilis. Roasted rice powder gives the dish a smoky aroma, several squeezes of lime makes the tongue tingle, and a small mountain of local herbs, including heaps of Laos mint and culantro, keeps things fresh and wonderfully fragrant.
Each bite only made my mouth water more, and it was with a joyful and steady smile as I reached with my sticky rice for a second helping.
When you’re dealing with an ingredient as heavy as the digestive fluid of a ruminant, it takes true chef’s skills to keep the rest of the dish in balance. You should order a kratip (Laos basket used for sticky rice) of sticky rice too, not only for something to help you grab more Laap, but also for use as fire insurance.
I shed more than a few tears, I was simply elated – both the bitterness of juicy bile and the oil from so many chili seeds bringing the taste-abilities of my tongue to screaming new levels.
The soup came at last, and it gave some balance to the meal, it was a sour Tom Som (just means ‘sour soup).
I could taste each part amidst the meaty soup stock, so hot and so sour while also feeling very nutritious. No need for adding coconut milk, extra salt or sugar, the wholly natural ingredients give each dish all the flavor power they need.
Do yourself a favor and order at least one dish as a Pia the next time you’re sitting down for a feast of Laos beloved Laap.
Our bill came to a total of 123,000 LAK ($14.80), which I thought was a bit cheaper actually than comparable dishes elsewhere during this recent trip to Laos.
The dishes here are arguably similar to those found in the Thai Esaan region, however the proportions the chef uses here, and the herb content, are what blew my tastebuds away.
Pa Kham Than Restaurant offers an outstanding example of the ingenuity of Lao food culture, a truly perfect display of laap – one of the ultimate dishes of Laotion cuisine.
Wait for the upcoming videos showing even more delicious Laos food, or check out another Vientiane local meat hot spot we visited, Anna Grilled Duck Restaurant, or 12 Laos Dishes you Need to Eat.
How to get there:
There’s no address listed, though I’ve plotted it myself on Google Maps, but on Facebook you can find a map (Laap Pa Kham Tan). The location is in a neighborhood very close to the Patuxay Monument, on the same road as the Vietnam Embassy. Look for a big Samsung store on the corner.
Opening Hours: Breakfast and Lunch (we were the final customers for the day, and we left at 2pm)
Prices: 20,000 LAK per plate for most meat dishes.
Also, be sure to check out my Vientiane travel guide for helpful information about your trip.