According to Condé Nast Traveler, Laotian food is one of Texas’ most alluring cuisines. An online article called “50 States, 50 Cuisines: The Food Worth Traveling For in Every State” credits Dallas as our state’s Laotian hotspot.
None of Texas’ other major cities are mentioned in the blurb, other than to say that “Lao food plays a big role in [Dallas’] current status as a food city after sitting in the shadow of Houston and Austin for years.” Maybe that’s a back-handed compliment. Maybe it’s true?
The article mentions Khao Noodle Shop, a Laotian restaurant that got lots of deserved attention when it opened in late 2018. It’s located in East Dallas, in a neighborhood with a high population of Southeast Asian immigrants.
The tiny country of Laos is home to about 7 million people; it’s about half the size of California. Khao Noodle Shop owner Donny Sirisavath thinks TV personality Anthony Bourdain helped make Laotian food better known, when two of the late chef’s shows visited Southeast Asia.
Sirisavath’s own restaurant, already poised to be popular when it opened two years ago, became nationally known in 2019 when Bon Appetit named it the No. 2 best new restaurant in America. (That accolade certainly helped shine a spotlight on Dallas’ Laotian food, though Khao Noodle Shop was not first to serve it in North Texas.)
Notably, Bon Appetit and Traveler are owned by the same parent company, and Bon Appetit has come under fire in the past few months for treating its journalists of color unfairly and for “whitewashing” recipes by changing ingredients or instructions to please a white audience.
Both magazines have released statements saying they hope to be more inclusive.
The “50 states, 50 cuisines” article seeks to inspire travelers to eat international food when they visit a new state. It recommends Czech food in Iowa, Jamaican food in Connecticut, Filipino food in Washington state and Ethiopian food in Washington, D.C.
In Texas, it offers a nod to Saap Lao Kitchen, the jerky shop headquartered in Bedford. It mentions Nalinh Market and Sapp Sapp, both in Irving, and Sabaidee in Dallas, Rowlett and Prosper. Those four companies alone show how Laotian food is reaching five cities in Dallas-Fort Worth.
The article misses Zaap Lao & Thai Street Eats, a Dallas restaurant serving laab salad, chicken wings and green papaya salad.
Traveler applauds the listed restaurants for their authenticity: “Lao food in Dallas has remained uncompromised for Western palates.”