DC hotspot Thip Khao is known for its unique take on the cuisine of the landlocked Southeast Asian country of Laos. Located in hipster mecca Columbia Heights, the Bon Appetit-feted restaurant features two menus: a straightforward selection for customers looking to try out Laotian flavors and a second one called “The Jungle” that features items like grilled chicken hearts and spicy pig’s blood sausage.
Read on for our favorite picks from this pioneering restaurant.
Not ready to jump headfirst into truly adventurous dishes? Start with the siin heng. Served on a wooden slab with fresh vegetables, the Laotian take on old-school beef jerky is a major style and taste bud upgrade from the Jack Link’s strips of your childhood. The chewy, lemongrass-and-ginger infused starter comes served with a side of the house sriracha sauce that’ll prep your palate for the coming spice invasion.
Use lettuce wraps to pack handfuls of this refreshing, nutty coconut rice dish that’ll transport you straight to a summer day on a faraway island paradise. Every bite of this colorful, crunchy dish is packed full of flavor, with scallions, peanuts, sour pork, lime, and cilantro. Pair with a cool beerlao for a classic traditional meal.
Make sure to split an order of the fried pigs’ ears, a Laotian delicacy that tastes like the most flavorful, richest bacon you’ve ever had. The thick, tender strips are perfect for sharing (though you might not want to) and come paired with a sriracha-based sauce for dipping.
Also known as the “extremely spicy shredded papaya salad,” this one’s certainly not for the faint of heart. If you’re feeling brave, take the plunge and grab an order of this fish sauce-and-crab-paste dish, which comes with a walloping punch of bright red chilis that the Washingtonian has called “mouth-searing”. Spoon some of the cherry tomato, lime and sugar concoction on your plate and get ready for the fireworks.
Finish your meal with an order of this coconut-flavored avocado dessert, which comes with black sesame seeds and coconut cream. The sweet, glutinous green rice is the perfect restorative after-dinner treat to coax your spice-struck flavor buds out of hiding.