Thip Khao is the only Laotian restaurant in DC, serving some of the spiciest and most flavorful food you’ll anywhere. Like the last time we dined at Thip Khao, we were presented with a small freebie to begin our meal, two slices of fresh cucumber topped with a spicy paste (chili and shrimp paste would be my guess). My husband Tom pointed out that although this particular starter seems a bit random to someone unfamiliar with Lao cuisine, it’s a good introduction to the spice level to come.
We knew there were dishes from our first visit that we had to order again, such as the Tam Som, or papaya salad with fish sauce, cherry tomatoes, lime, palm sugar, Thai chilies and peanuts.
Having been hurt by our spice hubris in the past, we requested this dish “medium” spicy, which was much more manageable than our first rendezvous but still spicy enough that we continued to empty water glass after water glass.
Even more useful were tall glasses of Thai iced tea (Tom) and Thai iced coffee (me) that really took the edge off with their sweet creaminess. Up next was another old favorite, Siin Haeng, which is sun-dried beef with ginger sesame seeds and sriracha.
This crispy, slightly chewy yet inexplicably tender beef never ceases to amaze me. The spice level is moderate, but builds ferociously over time. I think I could eat this for lunch every single day. Up next, an order of Lao Curry Puff, stuffed with curried potatoes and served with sweet and sour sauce.
These would be a great option for someone who wants to experience Lao food without as much spice. The sweetness of the sauce was the perfect contrast to the soft, fluffy curried potatoes. A delicious dish, but if I’d had it to do again I probably would have skipped them in order to save room for everything else.
In truth, we were full when our next two dishes arrived, which had more or less been the plan so we could take home plenty of leftovers to relive this deliciousness a second time. We’d originally wanted to order the Oob Bai (goat stew) from the jungle menu, but they were out for the day. Thrown for a loop, we instead ordered two alternate dishes. You know, just to be sure we got something good.
First up, Naem Khao, crispy coconut rice, lime, scallions, sour pork, peanuts and cilantro, served with lettuce wraps.
The crispy coconut rice lived up to its name providing excellent texture to the dish. This reminded me of a more flavorful, less salty version of P.F. Chang’s famous lettuce wraps. I could only eat a few bites, before moving on to the next.
The Kua Khao Jaew Bong was the only item we ordered off the mains section, proving that you can more than make a meal out of the starters and salads at Thip Khao. But if you’re hungry, this entreé is an excellent choice. The spicy fried rice dish features chili paste, egg, fish sauce, onions and Thai basil. Innocuous at first, each bite reveals something new. I most enjoyed the bites full of tender egg and sweet sausage, some of the best I’ve ever eaten.
I’d hoped to try the black sticky rice dessert I’ve drooled over several times on Instagram (an amazing account to follow, Chef Seng’s passion for food is contagious), but we could justify no further eating and decided to save it for next time. And there will be a next time, because not only is this food at Thip Khao truly delicious and unique, it’s also affordable. An over-the-top lunch totaled just over $50, stretching into two full meals for two people.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This post originally appeared on Kacy’s blog, Bad Sentences. Kacy is also a cultural ambassador for MezzeCulture in the Washington DC area, who lives and writes in Washington D.C., and enjoys travel and discovering international food and wine locally.