The Mein Man: Phad Lao, Not Phad Thai, at Viengthong

viengthong_8608_noodles_600Dish: Phad Lao
Place: Viengthong, Mount Baker
Price: $8.00

On the plate: From the menu: “stir-fried rice noodles with bean sprouts, phad Lao sauce, topped with green onions and parsley.” You get your choice of chicken, pork, or beef with this dish, which also comes with thin strips of fried egg.

Supporting cast:
Nothing, unless you want to ask for some additional spice on the side.

What to do:
Just dig in.

Noodling around: The same server has been here for many, many years. She’s short in height but long in work effort, handling all the chores on the floor.

I asked her the difference between phad Lao and phad Thai, thinking it would help me better understand the difference between Laotian food and Thai food–both on the menu. She explained that phad Lao comes without lime and peanuts, so it’s less sour, and that the sauce is mostly soy sauce and sugar, so it’s less sweet than phad Thai.

I recall having phad Thai at Viengthong in the past and noticing that it’s less sweet than at other restaurants–a sign that Viengthong is more authentic than other places in the area, where the noodles can be cloyingly sweet. I liked the phad Lao as a change of pace, though I do prefer a more sour preparation, and I missed the textural crunch that peanuts offer.

That said, I’d likely forego the phad Lao (and phad Thai) in favor of some other dishes at Viengthong, such as the nam khao lettuce wraps. There are a few other noodles dishes on the menu, including suki yaki made with bean thread noodles.

If you want more: I doubt you’ll be doing more than this plate of phad Lao, as it’s a big portion, but if you’re still hungry, how about some som tum ($7.50)? Viengthong’s version of green papaya salad always tastes fresh. If you’re brave, order it extra-spicy. You’ll be grabbing at the cabbage wedge to diffuse the heat. Even better, accompany the salad with a bamboo basket of sticky rice ($3.00). Grab some rice with your fingers and sop up the spicy juices of the salad.

Be aware/beware:
Viengthong is cash-only. Many a customer has come to this restaurant with credit card in hand, only to be dispatched to a nearby ATM machine to make payment. Also note that Viengthong closes at 8pm, though I’ve never seen anyone rushed out at that time. Consider it more of a place-your-order deadline.

First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on July 5, 2011.

Viengthong on Urbanspoon

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