Global Bites without the Flights: Laotian Food at Khe-Yo

One of the things I love about NYC is that it doesn’t feel like you’re in the same place the whole time. It’s a different feel whether you’re in the West Village or Upper East Side or hanging out by South Street Seaport. And beyond the neighborhood differentiator, I love that you can find little pockets of international influence everywhere. You can easily travel the world without a plane ticket.

Introducing:

On Thursday, Caitlin, my foodie friend and blogger at amourfou(d), and I went to check out Marc Forgione’s new restaurant in Tribeca – Khe-Yo, which is the first Laotian restaurant in NYC. I’ve never been to Laos, but when I was traveling Thailand earlier this year, many people I met had been all over Asia and suggested going to Laos on my next Asian trip. It is apparently similar to Thailand but less developed in the tourist sense, making for a more authentic travel experience. One of the best parts about Thailand is the beaches and Laos is landlocked, but the culture seems to be similar nonetheless. Laotian food is similar to but still different than food from Northern Thailand.

Before we ordered, the waiter recommended that we eat with our hands, typical in Laotian culture, which was not going to be a problem for us. It even states on the menu “Sticky rice tastes better when you eat it with your hands.”  Sticky rice is the “bread and butter” of this restaurant (and of Lao cuisine) and is served in a colorful basket of with two sauces on the side – one that is light and delicious but incredibly spicy (to the point where I almost asked for milk) and one that is thicker and eggplant-based. People in Laos eat more sticky rice than any other culture in the world and when you are finished eating, it is customary to put the top back on your rice basket.

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Here’s what we ordered – the names & descriptions are from the Khe-Yo menu:

  • Pork Belly & Shrimp Crispy Rolls, Home Style with Bibb Lettuce, Perilla & Sweet Carrot
  • Smashed Green Papaya Salad {Tam-Mak-Hoong} with Green Market Cabbage & Crushed Peanut
  • Chili Prawns {Goong-Phet} with Ginger Scallion Toast & Thai Basil
  • Lemongrass Berkshire Spare Ribs {Ping-Sien-Moo} with Smashed Long Bean & Heirloom Tomato

Tam-Mak-Hoong, the papaya salad, is one of the more famous Laotian dishes and was yummy, although it felt more cabbage-y than papaya-y. The pork belly rolls came with noodles and big lettuce leafs to wrap them up in, if desired. The prawns were huge and looked even larger because they came with the heads and legs attached. The sauce was thick and spicy and the toast was tall and covered in scallions. The spare ribs were a small serving but perfect in flavor and melted in your mouth.

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Each dish came with several sides and sauces to mix and match. Definitely go here with someone who you don’t mind double-dipping with because you will want to do some experimenting with each bite. You can mix everything – my favorite combo I tried was the spare ribs wrapped up in the Bibb lettuce and noodles from the pork belly rolls, topped with both sauces that came with the sticky rice.

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You know it’s a good dinner date when you hear the description of the dessert and don’t even have to check with your dining partner to see if you’re going to order it. As soon as the waiter described the off-the-menu special of vanilla rice pudding with apples and peanut brittle, we both said “yes”. I would still be eating it right now if it were at all possible.

xx

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