The Missus was craving some Larb for lunch. This sounded like a mission for our own guardian angel in Vientiane, Ai from the Lao Orchid Hotel. Just as with previous queries, Ai grabbed a few of her cronies in a semi-huddle, made a couple of calls, and came up with the result; Nang Kham Bang Restaurant, which just happened to be 2 blocks away. After walking right past it twice, we stopped, and actually read a sign for a change....... you just know I wasn't going to ask for directions.....
The interior is kind of odd. It is divided in half by glass; one part of the restaurant is air-conditioned, the other half is not.
The menu, itself was a conglomeration of interesting dishes like stuffed frog legs. The clientele, was all Lao. We learned how to identify a "real" Lao (as in places where Lao folks actually eat), by this:
Why the sink? Well, if you think about it, the required item for meals is:
Sticky rice. And the most important eating instrument is....well...your hand. So washing your hands right outside of the doorway makes complete sense.
The first thing to arrive was a plate of greens, veggies, and herbs:
We started with some Stir Fried Morning Glory:
This was not as good, as the version we had eaten the previous night. These were rather tough, and strangely, on the bland side.
Next up, Beef Laap(Laap Sin):
This had a nice balance of sour and spicy flavors, with a mild nuttiness brought on by the roasted rice powder. Not much in the way of beefy flavor, and as we found throughout our travels in SEA, the beef was on the chewy side.
We also ordered the Papaya Salad (Tam Mak Hung):
Nice and balanced sweet and sour flavors, I have a feeling they went easy on us in the spicy department. Crisp and refreshing, this was probably in the top three with regards to Papaya Salads on this trip.
Of course, it wouldn't be a meal without some comic relief from the mmm-bozo! When the veggies arrived, the Young Man serving us pointed at some chilies, and warned us by saying "ka-boom", and miming a mushroom cloud rising from what would be his now shattered cranium with his hands. No need for the ol' skull-and-crossbones sign here, we understood....
You know of course, we paid no heed to the young man's warning. The Missus and I both sampled a pepper. "KA-BOOM" is an understatement. Lucky for me, having had some experience with chilies, I didn't let my lips get involved, so you wouldn't find me lying face down in a pool of cerebral spinal fluid, nor would I be picking pieces of cranium and grey matter out of my papaya salad, but this stuff was pretty potent. The Missus turned several colours, red, sweaty grey, then pale white, as She told me She could feel the pepper burning a trail down Her esophagus, and into Her stomach. God only knew what tomorrow was going to bring. I think we've had our share of spicy food...but man this was hot!!!
Later when asked about this place, Ai told me that the local folks with "money".... i.e. who can afford to, eat here. It did turn out to be a nice refreshing meal for under $10/US. And knowing not what the Missus had planned for later that day (after my little midafternoon nap, of course), I'd probably end up needing some "refreshing"......
Nang Kham Bang Restaurant
Khoun Boulum St.
Vientiane, Lao PDR