Sunday, 17/03/2024 09:45

Sticky rice and more at Kao Niew Laotian restaurant

LOOKING BRIGHT: The long airy hall fills the villa with daily sunlight. VNS Photos Mỹ Hà

 by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

It's spring again when the weather becomes as moody as a young girl, cold early in the morning, hot by midday and cold again in late afternoon, not to mention wind or drizzle at any time during the day. To warm up and dry our souls from the damp air, getting out for a gathering of friends boosts your mood and natural wellbeing.

We've been to Kao Niew before and loved it. From the quiet and discrete street of Liên Trì, one of Hà Nội's most beautiful small lanes, until the moment we walked into the Lao restaurant, it was pleasant and graceful, the welcome of the owner made us feel special.

In the Lao language, Kao means rice and Niew stands for sticky. There's nothing more Laotian than the steamed sticky rice the Lao people have every day.

Vietnamese love everything Laotian, from the food and people to the culture as a whole. There are only a handful of restaurants catering with Laotian food in Hà Nội, but each has its niche.

SHELLFISH OFFERING: The glass noodle seafood salad tastes like a popular Thai salad, with powerful sour flavour.

Our table was comfy facing a large window. The restaurant's framed black and white photos of ancient people gave the place a distant nostalgic feel.

For starters, we had the Glass noodle seafood salad, something similar to a Thai seafood salad, but Kao Niew didn't add ground pork to the dish, which we liked. The shrimps were plump, and the thick squid pieces were large and tender enough not to have us juggling for smaller bites. 

Next came the Larp, with the roasted chicken and dipping sauce. Larp is usually consumed as a main dish with steamed sticky rice, but they send it together with the chicken, so hot with crispy skin. The larp with its sourness has been turned into a sort of salad to quench the palate, as the chicken is so buttery. 

TASTY FOWL: Lao larp goes well with roasted chicken and sausages, topped with steamy hot sticky rice, a signature of Lao cuisine

Next up, came the sticky rice. Though we had run out of meat to accompany it, so had it with roasted sesame and peanuts, which were excellent. 

The rice was so delicious we wanted to have more, but some diners before us had already ordered all the house's rice to take home. So, we were not so lucky with the kao niew at Kao Niew restaurant.

Then we had the pork sausage, it was supposed to be a starter with rice, but it tasted good nevertheless.

Next was a sour soup with seaweed and extra fine tofu to aid digestion. Unlike other cultures where they like to open the palate and digestive system with a hot soup, the Vietnamese way is to have it served last, which is what we did.

Like Việt Nam and Thailand, Laos also has many delicious sweet soups for dessert, which left us all content to get ready to go back and face our not-so-bright reality. 

The gathering had got us philosophical and chatty, and we opened up about life. It seemed many of us had ageing parents who were struggling with depression and ill health. It is a difficult situation. People who have gone to geriatric hospitals say that they hear children shouting at their parents all the time. They can easily lose their temper with their parents, now behaving like children, and not listening to them.

A popular Vietnamese saying goes, "Tears only run down" meaning only parents love and care for their children unconditionally, and it's hard the other way around. Living day to day with an ageing parent or two is a hard task that not everyone can be prepared to fulfil, let alone accomplish it well. 

"We need to meet more often to exchange our ways to treat our parents better," one of my senior colleagues said. "But remember, you're so lucky to still be able to call out 'Mẹ ơi!' (Mummy)."

Replenished by a good meal, her words put everything in context and gave us the energy to be strong and to keep trying.  VNS

Kao Niew Lao Restaurant

Address: 21 Liên Trì, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

Tel: 098 433 70 81

Comment: Great Lao food in an elegant villa setting

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