The Laughing Monk Cafe (Allston) Charms for Lunch

Joined by two foodie friends, one deeply familiar with Thai food, we ventured to the newest outpost of Laughing Monk Café on Brighton Ave, Allston MA. Just a few small tables but large hospitality. Our server, Mint, was sweetly attentive and eager to see how we were enjoying our dishes. And we did…big time.

Isaan Thai food is renowned for its pungent sauces, spicy chilies, and unusual proteins. It isn’t often in the spotlight but certainly has its own die-hard fans. Much like Northern Thailand, the staple carbohydrate is the dense, pull-apart sticky rice. Here are a few regional characteristics of Isaan food in Thailand (or Northeastern Thai cuisine):

  • Heavily influenced by Laos and Khmer cuisine from Cambodia

  • Bplah rah (thick, opaque fermented fish sauce) is a signature element in Issan Thai food and has a distinctly different taste than nahm blah (thin, clear fish sauce)

  • Soups and curries have a clear broth base and do not often use coconut milk

  • Many types of meat are char-grilled or roasted; river prawns, snakehead fish, and catfish are popular seafood items

  • Dips are essential and made from pounded herbs and spices

SOM TAM THAI-POO - Julienned green papaya, lime juice, thai chili, garlic, long bean and tomato with salted crab and fermented fish was a bit incendiary (for my palate, but not for the others) with plenty of heat but a delightful freshness.

DUCK LARB – lime juice, ground chili red onion, mint, cilantro, scallion fish sauce, khao (toasted rice powder) and ground warm cooked duck. This was the standout dish for me. The warmth of the duck played nicely with the slimly sliced red onion (lots of red onion). We didn’t leave a drop.

LARB MOO KROB - Same larb treatment with the addition of a generous amount of fried pork belly

ISAAN SAUSAGE was deep-fried style sausage (ground fermented pork, rice & herbs). Delicate with a touch of sweetness and tang. Piping hot and cut into 2” pieces, they were incredibly flavorsome. I ate mine wrapped in a fresh lettuce leaf and they offered a pleasing, skin-popping moment of toothsomeness.

MANGO & SWEET RICE - Although we were full, we couldn’t miss the sliced mango & sweet rice garnished with toasted, crunchy sesame seeds. This included one of the most delectably ripe halves of mango thinly sliced, leaning into a large dollop of warm sweet rice and coconut milk served with the sesame topping. I could eat this every day.

Both the manager and our server engaged us in lively conversation and suggested new things to try upon our return (which will be soon). With our mouths still gently tingling we said our goodbyes and felt we’d had an overall terrific experience. You should try it.


The savory dishes were requested “prik, prik” & didn’t disappoint. The rice mango dessert was served hot. The staff couldn’t have been more delightful , informative & gracious.


Wow,! Thanks… On our radar


Had a fabulous lunch here last week, can’t wait to go back! My order was similar to yours: I got the som tam with a new-to-me pressed pork sausage (lovely), pork-jowl larb (fantastic), and moo ping (tastiest version I’ve had in Greater Boston). See my IG for pics. I was likewise impressed with the lovely service.

They had a kitchen issue that slowed my orders, balky stove or some such, and they comped me an order of edamame while I waited, unnecessary but welcome and smart.

A couple of guys next to me who had already been a few times ordered a raw shrimp dish they insisted was a must-try: goong chair nam pla, in the Yum (spicy lime salad) section of the menu. Definitely getting that one next time.

My only disappointment was that “Thai dipping sauce”, a/k/a nam prik ong, a fiery ground-pork/tomato relish served with an array of crudites (usually cucumbers, green cabbage, lettuce, Thai eggplant and long beans) wasn’t available. To be fair, that’s a Northern (as in Northwestern, Changmai-area) dish, not Isan, but I still want to try their version.

A great new Isan place takes some of the sting out of losing a longtime beloved Central Thai place like S&I Thai To Go. Thanks for the great, detailed write-up and pics!


We would have ordered the “Chargrilled Chicken Livers with spicy dipping sauce”, but manager said he was unable to source quality product that morning for this dish. Hopefully, next time.