Since January 2016, 10 Laotian restaurants, food trucks and farmers market stalls have opened in Dallas-Fort Worth, with an 11th coming soon. The newcomers join a small group of older, more traditional eateries like Nalinh Market. Now, unexpectedly, a nationwide Lao food movement finds many of its leaders in North Texas, a region so rich in sticky rice, laap and papaya salad that it has become the biggest, most exciting Laotian food scene in North America.
More adventurous dishes include kowpiak Xay-style, a bowl of hearty soup with a savory bone-colored broth and a mixture of crispy-fried pork belly, cubes of solidified pork blood and whole soft-boiled quail eggs. The soup is a riot of textures, the crunchy splinters of pork belly fat jostling with tofu-like squares of blood and a carpeting of fried garlic and fresh green onions.
From top left to right, clockwise: Khao Poon soup, papaya salad, sticky rice, stir-fry rice, Laab salad, Lao sausage at Zaap Kitchen Kathy Tran