Location: 81 Bloor Street East, Toronto
I’m gonna admit that pretty much the only thing I know about Laos is that it’s where Hank Hill’s neighbour is from on King of the Hill. I sort of figured that I’d be learning about all kinds of countries while doing this blog, but to be honest, not really (unless you consider eating a dish or two without context to be learning about a place, in which case, sure! I’m learning a lot!).
But now I can tell you about a couple of Laotian dishes I had at Sabai Sabai, so I guess I know a tiny bit more than I did before.
I started with the laap lao, which the menu describes as a minced pork salad, and the “most popular dish of Laos.” Well, okay. Sold.
I can see why it’s so popular in Laos (and elsewhere) — it’s delicious. It’s a simple dish, with a bowl of ground pork accompanied by a plate of iceberg lettuce leaves for wrapping. The pork absolutely pops with flavour — it’s addictively tangy and herby, and it’s almost impossible to stop eating. The fresh crunchiness of the lettuce is a perfect accompaniment to the flavourful pork. It’s great.
My main was the mee kati (coconut noodles). This was really tasty, though it was exceptionally awkward to eat. It essentially comes deconstructed, with the plate consisting of a pile of dry noodles topped with crispy onions, a small bowl of sauce and chicken chunks, and an even smaller bowl of crushed hot peppers.
I wasn’t sure how to approach this. Was I supposed to pour the sauce over the noodles? The way the plate was arranged, it didn’t seem like it. A bowl would have been more appropriate if this were the intention, plus there was a banana leaf on the plate, and if I poured sauce over the noodles, some of it would inevitably wind up under the leaf. So… no pouring, I guess?
But because the noodles were completely un-sauced, they all stuck together in one stubborn clump. I eventually sprinkled the hot peppers onto the noodle clump, and then tore off chunks and dipped them into the sauce. But I clearly over-dipped my first few clumps, because by the time I was about halfway finished with the noodles, the sauce was almost entirely depleted. It wasn’t the best.
It tasted really good, though! For all the awkwardness of actually eating it, that’s what really counts — the sauce was creamy, coconutty, rich, and delicious. The crushed peppers gave it a mild kick, and the fried onions added some crispiness and a decent amount of flavour. The chicken pieces tasted a bit leftovery, but all in all it was a tasty dish. I just wish they’d drop the unwelcome pretension and serve it assembled in a bowl like normal people.