In a quiet northeastern section of the old city, near Wat Nong, is Tamarind, a small restaurant that is famous for its Friday night fish feasts and cooking classes. We didn’t manage to make it to either of those events (they were catering a wedding so the weekend cooking classes were cancelled), but we did have a relaxing lunch there yesterday.
Tamarind specializes in Lao food. Though our first Lao restaurant experience was a complete bust, we decided to give Lao food another shot after reading the many raves about Tamarind. We ordered two of Tamarind’s specialties. The first was an assortment of dips, accompanied by an explanation sheet with pictures and descriptions of the dips. From the sheet we learned that the “purpose of the dips is to add flavor to the sticky rice that is the staple of Laos food.” The platter consisted of:
- Jeow Mak Len – a tomato-based dip that tasted like a chunky salsa without the jalapenos.
- Jeow Pak Hom – a coriander dip that was my favorite of the bunch. It had some chili-kick, and reminded me of a chunkier form of coriander chutney.
- Jeow Mak Keua – a smoky eggplant dip that tasted like a good baba ghanoush
- Jeow Bong – my least favorite, a garlic based dip where “buffalo skin adds texture”; for us the buffalo skin only added an icky flavor.
- Khai Pene – sold all over the streets of Luang Prabang, Khai Pene is made from a vegetable that grows in the river (known as seaweed, river moss, or Mekong weed), is pounded flat, laid to dry, and topped with garlic, tomato, and sesame seeds. Tamarind’s house-made version was delicious.
Our sheet mentioned that the dips are very spicy when eaten in a private home, though at Tamarind they are unfortunately served tourist spicy. However, it’s in Laos that we have become enamored with sticky rice, and the dips were reasonably tasty and fun to scoop up with the rice.
We also ordered lemongrass stuffed with chicken. This was by far my favorite Lao dish to date. The lemongrass is stuffed with a mixture of herbs and chicken, then the entire ensemble is dipped in egg and pan fried. It would be worth taking Tamarind’s cooking class just to learn how to make this dish.
Tamarind has a cute, cafe-style atmosphere, and friendly staff. While I’m still not a huge fan of Lao food, if you’re in Luang Prabang it’s worth considering a stop at Tamarind to get a taste of the local cuisine. And while you’re there, definitely order the stuffed lemongrass.
Ban Wat Nong, Old Town
Luang Prabang, Laos
+856 20 7770484
Daily: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner