>> Sabaidee Lao & Thai Street Food | Eat the World Los Angeles

Thursday, 28 October 2021

Sabaidee Lao & Thai Street Food

LAOS 🇱🇦
Food stand inside Haven City Market

COVID-19 UPDATE: The Haven City Market and San Bernardino County in general are mostly unmasked places. There are no vaccination requires here.

While Southern California is home to a spattering of Lao restaurants and other businesses, it is by no means the epicenter of the Lao and Lao American communities in the United States like it is for many other peoples. In addition to the Northern Virginian outskirts of Washington D.C., Dallas and its surrounding area became the destination of many refugees after this country made Laos the most bombed nation in the world. While immigration from Laos is still quite small compared to many other places (the country is very small as well), most still happens in those two places four decades later.

So it is only natural that empires have formed over the years like Sabaidee, which has four locations in Dallas and its northern suburbs. Thankfully for the Inland Empire, the fifth location has opened at the Haven City Market in Rancho Cucamonga, a two year old food hall that seems to be bursting at the seems since COVID safety rules have been eased.

A recent takeout order

Like its counterparts in Texas, the Haven City Market outpost is fast casual and mostly takeout. The market has some outdoor seating that you can take your meals to, and plenty of other spots to grab some drinks and dessert when you finish. The Thai in "Lao & Thai" is referring to Isaan province in the northeast of Thailand, a place that shares so much history and culinary techniques with Laos. So plan for the often spicy foods that straddle the border of these two places rather than pad thai or drunken noodles.

Start with their delicious nam khao ($12.99, above top right), a dish of crispy fried rice balls mixed with cured sour pork sausage (som moo) and full of scallions, cilantro, mint, fish sauce, and lime juice. It is usually topped with a healthy portion of peanuts, but that might be left off here to avoid allergies of unknowing customers. Some dried red chili is included in orders on the side and should be employed for the nam khao as it is served without spice.

Thum mak hoong (Lao papaya salad)

This is not the case for their thum mak hoong ($11.99, above), which they will request a spice level from you. Lao food starts at a higher level than most, so a 3 out of 5 "spicy" rating should give dishes like this the proper amount of kick needed. Unfortunately the papaya salad that was put into this order somehow had the level 5 "extreme" and was definitely extreme. All the wonderful elements of a really good thum mak hoong were there, it was just scorched by far too much heat.

Thankfully the larb gai ($11.99, below) was correct at its level 4 "extra spicy" preparation. The minced chicken dish can have a good upgrade because it can be tempered by cool and crispy bites of lettuce and cucumber, along with sticky rice like the thum mak hoong.

Larb gai (Lao chicken salad)

Despite the small hiccup with spice level, it is quite a lovely surprise to see complex and sophisticated Lao cooking in such an informal setting. Hopefully the people in Rancho Cucamonga and surrounding communities will have a love for Lao food that will let the franchise expand further in the Inland Empire, and then Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

Even those with no familiarity with the cuisine will find a nice entry point with an order of the Sabaidee wings ($9.99, one below, full order in top photo). These fried wings and drumsticks are marinated with soy sauce and garlic, but the sharper herbs and lime are what show through. Unfortunately the ones served on this day were just a touch dry.

Sabaidee wings

A stroll around the Haven City Market is fun, some vendors of used clothing set up outside while a thorough assortment of restaurants offer just about anything you could want inside. A few arcade games and even some sit down bars provide entertainment for those with and without children.

And if you are not living in Rancho Cucamonga, make sure to look up when you are on the streets. It is always a pleasure to be close to Mount Baldy and the highest peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains.

📍 8443 Haven Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga, Inland Empire

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