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Learn where to find the best Laotian Restaurants in San Diego!
Have you ever wondered where to find the best Laotian restaurants in San Diego? Worry not, we've got them all right here! Always on the hunt for different cuisines in a beautiful city, I've rounded up what I consider to be the best Laotian restaurants in San Diego. But FIRST, let's learn a little bit about Laotian food.
The Food of Laos
Nestled in between Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia, many people mistake Laotian cuisine for Thai food. Granted, many Laotian dishes are served in Thai restaurants, and the flavors for many dishes are very similar, however, dishes such as larb, papaya salad and sticky rice originated from Laos. There are however, many similarities between Laotian dishes and those served in Northern Thailand. Laotian cuisine tends to be spicy, sour, and sometimes even a little bitter. Common ingredients are chili (of course), lime, fish sauce, fresh herbs, lemongrass, and shrimp paste. Now you see why I
like LOVE it? These are some of the best flavors in the world. If you're new to this type of cuisine, trust me; you will be blown away by the intense umami flavors of Laotian cuisine.
Sticky rice is a staple of Laotian cuisine. If you've never had the opportunity to have sticky rice, you MUST try it. I love it - it is the perfect complement to the spicy, saucy dishes served in Laotian restaurants. Similar to so many other Asian countries, rice is the centerpiece of most meals. While the sticky rice can be eaten on it's own, it is best used as a utensil. I mean, really, any excuse to eat with my hands. Just form your sticky rice into a spoon like shape and scoop up whatever deliciousness you have on the table.
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So here we are in beautiful sunny San Diego, on the hunt for some Laotian food. There are some truly delicious spots right here in a our beautiful city...below is THE list of the best Laotian restaurants in San Diego.
This spot is the BEST!!!! A little gem located on El Cajon Blvd. in an unassuming shopping center in Rolando (not far from SDSU), this place serve up some of the best Lao food in San Diego. It is my go-to spot when the craving hits. Every dish ordered has been packed with flavor and freshness and the prices are about as reasonable as you can get. When family comes to town, we come to Sang Dao. The pla goong is a must order. Perfectly cooked shrimp served with Thai spices, chilies, onions and lime juice, this salad has the perfect amount of spice and is so fresh and delicious.
They also serve this amazing salty fish fried rice that is just that...salty pieces of flavor packed fish mixed in with fried rice. I love this dish. The boyfriend finds it a touch salty but I think it's perfection. The crying tiger is another favorite. Here at Sang Dao they actually just call it BBQ Beef, but the premise is the same. It grilled and served with the most amazing sauce you will ever taste. And of course panang curry. Now I know, panang curry is not traditionally a Laotian dish, but Sang Dao's panang curry is the best I have ever had. And I've had a LOT. They put their own twist on it, which adds an extra layer of deliciousness to an already amazing dish.
Now these are just a few of my favorite dishes. They also have some amazing pan fried noodle dishes - I have yet to try one I don't like. The salads are excellent, just packed full of wonderful flavors and the tom kha soup is amazing!
If you've never had Laotian food, check this place out. This is one of the best Laotian restaurants in San Diego!
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Mekong Lao and Thai Cuisine
If dreams were made of something, it would be the Laos Northeastern Style Chorizo (Sai Ou) served at Mekong Lao and Thai Cuisine. The chorizo is deep fried and served with a slightly sweet and spicy chili sauce. This was the boyfriends favorite dish, for good reason. The flavor of the chorizo had a mix of savory and sweet tones, and was absolutely delicious. I would come back just for that sausage. And the dipping sauce. Bottles and bottles of that dipping sauce. Seriously. I don't know how I ever lived without it in my life.
Crying Tiger (Nuea Num Tok) tends to be one of my favorite dishes, and this one certainly did not disappoint. The steak was grilled to perfection and served with a side of sauce consisting of chili, lime and fish sauce. Much like the sauce at Sang Dao, I had a hard time not licking the dish when we were done with the beef. The level of spice was perfect, it was not overly spicy, but had the perfect amount of kick.
The roasted curry had great flavor, however, the duck was a little fattier than I would have liked. Served in a red curry coconut sauce with peppers, onions, pineapple, peas and tomatoes, this curry sauce was AH-MA-ZING. And then the Mee Gatee which was a soup noodle dish with coconut curry, ground pork and peanuts. I mean, how can you go wrong with that? The curry was rich, thick and flavorful complemented nicely with the rice noodles and peanuts (pictured at top of article).
Another little hole in the wall over in City Heights (I just love the City heights food scene), this place served some pretty legit Laotian food. But the best dish of all was the grilled chicken skewers. The chicken is seasoned to perfection, juicy, and served with a dipping sauce that I believe truly is drinkable. I mean, I would seriously drink it. Juts sip on it all day. It would make me happy. Chicken skewers may sound un-exciting, but believe me, they are anything but that!
Lao Community Market
This place is known for it's many papaya salads and larbs. And for good reason. The beef larb was delicious; the beef was tender and the flavors were absolutely perfect.
The papaya salad, while not beautiful, had a pretty awesome flavor - another "wish I could have licked the plate" kind of dish. They have a number of different papaya salads, as well as a great mango, cucumber and vermicelli salad as well.
The highlight of the morning (yes, morning) was the chicken curry (not on the menu). The curry had the perfect amount of coconut and that delicious slightly sour flavor of southeastern Asian cuisines we love so much. It was good stuff. So if you're in the mood for a deliciously warm and spicy curry noodle soup, just ask. These guys are very accommodating and eager to please.
The beef jerky and the Lao sausage are also both pretty damn tasty. Don't forget your order of sticky rice. MUST HAVE STICKY RICE. And of all that food (plus 2 bottled waters) the bill was only $30! Can you believe it? This downtown San Diego girl was happy. And while you wait on your food, check out the adjoining market - they've got some really neat stuff.
Did I miss anyone? Where do you think the best Laotian restaurants in San Diego are? What is your favorite Laotian dish? Have you been to any of these places and if so, what do you think?
If you're coming to San Diego, or even if you live here already, check out some of these other amazing restaurants:
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The Best Cambodian Food in San Diego
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The Best Thai Restaurant in Downtown San Diego
I don't think I've ever had Laotian food before. Thanks for this post! I have had Cambodian food before in Brussels, of all the places!
I love Cambodian food too! Laotian has similarities to Thai and Vietnamese, but I actually think it's one of the best cuisines!
Hi. Thx for the article. I enjoy these flaovors so this is of huge interest. I've been to your favorite place many times. Plz mk correction with Sang Dao, though. It's located on El Cajon Blvd, and not University Blvd. See u around.
You're totally right! I always get those 2 street mixed. I made the correction 🙂
I'm hungry just looking at all your pictures! I have never had Laotian food, but I love Thai food, and all of the flavors you mentioned I enjoy! Next time I'm in San Diego, I will definitely try one of these restaurants, and now I'll be on the lookout for Laotian closer to home as well.
Laotian food is so amazing. If you ever have the chance to try it, you totally should!
Liz @ The Lemon Bowl
I love beef larb and papaya salad! This all sounds amazing!
It was all delicious!
That Crying Tiger looks JUST like a dish after my taste! Having read a few of your blog posts it seems that San Diego is quite a treasure trove for great dishes... If only it wasn't so far away from London 😉
OMG the crying tiger is literally one of my favorite dishes ever, if not my favorite! San Diego does have some great food, but I have no doubt you've got some awesome stuff in London too 🙂
Pattaya Thai in Rancho Bernardo is one of my favorites. It is owned by Laotians and they make authentic Lao food as well. I go there at least once a week.
Awesome! I'll definitely have to check it out! I used to work up in Rancho Bernardo, but don't get up there too often now that I work downtown.
I loved the food in Laos. I also love San Diego. It's good to know that I can combine these two loves the next time that I'm in California.
Right? San Diego is such a great place, and the food scene keeps getting better and better!
Sally - My Custard Pie
So interesting - I didn't even consider that there might be Laotian food or a distinct cuisine before.
Thanks! There are so many different cuisines, it's really a lot of fun to try them all!