Thip Khao: Rising Above

As life slowly returns to normal, albeit in a modified way, when it comes to dining, I feel like a cicada emerging from the ground.

I’m fully vaccinated but trying to determine what this means in terms of my relationship with restaurants. Neighborhood drops are still happening- and I hope this is a trend that lives long into the future. I love the convenience, particularly on a weeknight. As I ponder small get-togethers with friends, carryout remains appealing. Both options are helping restaurants make up for revenue losses based on limited capacity- which in DC is still at 25% indoors.

What about dining at restaurants? Spring has made outdoor dining a wondrous possibility. I occasionally took advantage of this option in the last year, and am ready for a full embrace. I’ve just started dining indoors at restaurants, which many still regard with skepticism. But now that I’ve reacquainted myself with the sensation of eating without having to take the elements into consideration, I’m leaning into it. Plus, those cicadas will soon be out in full force.

Whether indoors, outdoors, carryout, or hood drop, I am making a deliberate effort to support Asian-owned restaurants in the face of the recent attacks on the Asian community. This brings me to Thip Khao, the Laotian restaurant in DC’s Columbia Heights.

Blog post writing is typically a slow process for me, and it’s worsened during COVID times. It’s an activity that’s pitted against work, family, volunteerism, an addiction to social media, and mental exhaustion at the end of the day.  As a result, although I start writing about Thip Khao in early April, I take a pause that lasts for weeks.

When I’m ready to hit the keyboard again I discover that the restaurant has been the target of a break-in. Thip Khao suffers the loss of property and considerable damage to the interior. It appears to be unknown whether this is a hate crime or just a crime, and it doesn’t matter. Restaurants are struggling to survive, and a break-in seriously affects the livelihood of the owners. It also serves as a kick in the pants to the entire restaurant community. This further fuels my desire to write about Thip Khao, and to visit other Asian-owned restaurants in the area.

I’ve dined at Thip Khao numerous times, and first wrote about it in February 2015 when it was relatively new. Chef/owner Seng Luangrath works diligently to promote the cuisine of Laos through her restaurants, at special events, and as the founder of the Lao Food Movement, which helps support the Lao community in the U.S.

While Lao food has many similarities to Thai, dishes are typically uplifted by an abundance of lime and fresh herbs. Two other prevalent ingredients: padaek, a fermented fish paste, and sticky rice. Chef Seng pays homage to them both with a Falls Church restaurant named Padaek and Thip Khao, which is named for the bamboo vehicle designed to hold sticky rice.

Thip Khao is currently offering a slightly scaled-down pandemic menu which includes a welcome selection of vegan and fish dishes. On this occasion, and with increasing regularity, I find myself drawn to meatless meals. I’m not going the Epicurious route and dropping beef entirely from my repertoire. But when a restaurant continues to up their game with meat-free dishes that creatively and masterfully hit every sweet, sour, bitter, and salty note, I’m ready to dive in.

Every cuisine features a version of fried dough stuffed with something sweet or savory. Thip Khao has Khanonom Mung Falang. After months of carryout when one of the golden rules is to avoid fried foods, there is pure delight in consuming a dish at its intended temperature and texture. I hope to never take this for granted again. Bring me ALL the fried food.

The thick and crispy exterior is a gateway to perfectly spiced curry-tinged potatoes. I dip it into the sweet and sour sauce, eagerly take a bite, and revel in flavors that take me over the moon.

Thip Khao Khanonom Mung Falang

Moak Paa is a popular Laotian dish featuring fish steamed in banana leaves.  Salmon is infused with an herbal rice paste and blanketed with a layer of onion, dill, and wood ear mushrooms. To unwrap the parcel is to unleash a heavenly earthy aroma that deserves its own moment of silence before consuming.

Thip Khao Moak Paa

Pad Kee Mao -wok tossed flat noodles- are boosted by chili-garlic sauce, fish sauce, basil, tomato, bell peppers, and onions and an option of tofu, chicken or shrimp. The spices cling beautifully to tofu, and even though the heat has us reaching for our water glasses between bites, the stars in our eyes are more than a reaction to the heat.

Thip Kao Pad Kee Mao

Chef Seng and her son Boby Pradachith, who is a chef and co-owner of Thip Khao, have always been a presence at DC charity events. Pradachith recently cooked at a dinner in honor of Embrace Race, an organization dedicated to educating young children to be informed and thoughtful about race and social justice.  Chef Seng participated in the AAPI Women Lead dinner to help end violence against Asian and Pacific Islander women. Their Instagram feeds (@chefseng, @pradachith23) are filled with heartfelt sentiments about the importance of participating in these awareness-building events.

May is AAPI Heritage month. There is no better time to support Thip Khao, as it rises to the challenges and continues to soar.

Thip Khao, 3462 14th St NW, Washington, DC




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    Once you enter the restaurant, you’re greeted warmly and the people working there treat you with love and respect.
    During the Covid-19 Pandemic, Dosa and chaat provided free meals for the frontline workers such as doctors, nurses, and also they started a training program for individuals on the Autism spectrum. They have nearly 22 individuals with disabilities on the Autism spectrum, some of whom continue to work at the restaurant to this day.
    Kindly Visit Dosa and Chaat Indian Restaurant in Gaithersburg, Maryland 20878, they provide the best Indian food and their Biryani varieties are the best around Gaithersburg.
    Taste their Biryani and write a review!

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