With a passion to share her Lao culture and food with the masses, Chef Seng Luangrath has recently opened up the highly anticipated Thip Khao restaurant in Washington, D.C.'s Columbia Heights neighborhood.
Lao food is known for its heat, so be sure to check out the "Let's Go to the Jungle!" menu, which showcases meals with ingredients including chili and sriracha sauce.
For those whose taste buds prefer tamer fare, this menu offers patrons the option to choose their spice level. Pick mild, medium or Lao hot on such dishes as rice-cured tilapia, crispy fried intestine and grilled beef tongue.
Dig into Laab Gai at D.C.'s new restaurant Thip Khao — Photo courtesy of Thip Khao
A different menu offers starters, soups and salads and large plates. There are multiple gluten-free and vegetarian options for those with dietary restrictions.
Munch on appetizers such as a crispy spring roll, hard-boiled eggs or sun-dried beef. Sample savory dishes off the soups and salads section, including crispy watercress with shrimps and tamarind sauce, steamed Asian vegetables or sour soup; you can add chicken, flounder, seafood or tofu to this soup for an extra charge.
Check out the large plates section, featuring grilled pork neck, lettuce wraps with savory rice paste, curry stew and grilled fish wrapped in banana leaves.
Flip the menu over once you have made your selection. On the back, there are hand-drawn pictures showing patrons how to eat sticky rice with their dinner selection. (The trick is to roll the rice into balls and dip them into your entrée.)
The Lao influence can also be found on the drink menu, featuring classic cocktails and house-made spiked tropical punches.
This is the second eatery for Luangrath, who also owns the Bangkok Golden restaurant based in Falls Church, Va., which is a popular choice among foodies for its Thai and Lao dishes, including shrimp cakes and bamboo shoots.
Thip Khao takes its name from the large woven bamboo baskets that are a common sight in Lao kitchens. Used to hold batches of their meal staple sticky rice, the vessel may be opened by family and friends to grab a helping either as a snack or to pair with a meal.
Be sure to make reservations before you head over to Thip Khao, because the restaurant is closed early in the day and on Tuesdays. Look for a carry-out option in the future.
To get there, take the metro to Columbia Heights.