>> Nok's Kitchen | Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday 9 September 2022

Nok's Kitchen

Westminster Blvd. facade

๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฆ LAOS
๐Ÿ…ฟ️ Ample parking in plaza.
๐Ÿฅค No alcohol.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This business used to do pop-ups at festivals, catering, and mail service under the same name. Click here for the original article.

After gaining quite a following selling homemade sai oua to restaurants, markets, and for private sales, as well as doing swift business during festivals and catering events, Nok's Kitchen has finally been able to open up a full restaurant recently in Westminster. Since spring, Orange County has been home to the newest Lao spot in the Southland and they still feature these Lao sausages and much more. The restaurant is worth seeking out even if you think somewhere nearby is the best restaurant in the world.

The one page laminated menu is easy to look over quickly and shows that the sausages and other skewers of meat that Nok's was so popular for at festivals are still the focus. You can order skewers a la carte but also as combos with multiple pieces and sticky rice included. On the drinks side of things, a refreshing coconut juice ($5.25, below) or dragonfruit lemonade ($5.25, below) both make for excellent meal companions.

Coconut juice and dragonfruit lemonade

Traditional serving plate with three dishes

Despite having the feel of a fast casual place, meals eaten inside are served communally on a traditional "rice tray" pha khao and sticky rice is put in a bamboo thip khao. During this visit as takeout packages were inquired about, a woman from San Diego came in to buy sausages to take home. Despite that city having thoroughly excellent Lao food itself, she had come here and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Nok's is unbeatable in that game.

Unfortunately for the foreseeable future it may be a bit more difficult for walk-in customers to get their hands on packaged sai oua to take home. As demand continues to increase from their larger clients, they are putting these on hold as they figure out more efficient logistics to keep the restaurant humming alongside the other side of the business.

เป„เบช້เบญັ່เบง Sai oua pork sausages

If you are only coming here to eat one meal, you will not be harmed by any of this, as sai oua and the other grilled meats will always be available for dine-in customers. The pork sausage combo ($11.99, above) includes two links of the famous sai oua, a basket of sticky rice, and their dipping sauce which is at the same time wonderful and completely unnecessary on such a flavorful sausage.

The Nok in Nok's Kitchen is of course Nokmaniphone Sayavong, the chef whose name you will be singing after the first visit. Her sai oua have big chunks of course ground pork and pork fat inside along with plenty of chili, lemongrass and galangal. If you come alone and cannot share a bunch of dishes with friends and have no way to get takeout either, this is the right order.

Ribeye skewers

While the sai oua is undeniably the star of this show, the other grilled skewers are just as good. The rib eye skewers combo ($14.99, above) is cooked as desired (you desire medium rare), and uses cubes of beef that have plenty of fat on them for a well-rounded flavor. The marinades used on this and the chicken both burst with the flavors of Southeast Asia despite only being a short drive from the many kebabs of Anaheim's Little Arabia.

While the majority of sticky rice in Thai and Lao restaurants has been frozen and reheated and never truly inspires, the serving here is big and fresh, fragrant from the bamboo it was steamed in. It may seem like an afterthought, but it should never be as in Laos this rice is a staple of the diet and every sit down meal.

Chicken thigh skewer

Finally from the combo menu is the chicken thigh skewers combo ($10.99, above), two perfectly grilled thighs pinched between the wood used to grill them. In addition to the usual spicy, this order also includes a sweet dipping sauce and if you are coming from a longer distance and including a day at an Orange County beach in your itinerary, this is the perfect snack with sticky rice when you start feeling hunger again.

If this all seems like too much meat, the papaya salad ($11.99, below) pairs very well to contrast with all the skewers. This thum mak hoong is like the one Nok's served at the festival linked at the top, more on the Thai side of things. If you ask her why she shies away from the much more pungent version popular in Laos, it is just her personal preference. It is probably a good business move, even if it disappoints some Lao people and others that like this style, as it can be tolerated by many more palates.

Thum mak hoong papaya salad

Even if you were craving the Lao version when you walked in, this salad will not leave you disappointed, a combination of extremely fresh and crisp ingredients. Lao "medium" is usually fairly spicy but here proved a bit too tame for a dish that basically needs to bring the heat, so do not be shy to talk to them about your spice levels.

The big juicy lime half should be squeezed thoroughly over the nam khao ($11.99, below), as the only taste missing when it arrives is this citrus sharpness. This crispy rice salad is a classic of Lao cuisine and done very well here, the balls of rice made by combining it with curry and herbs before frying. These are mixed in with more herbs, a healthy portion of fermented sausages, peanuts, and more.

Nam khao crispy rice salad

Salmon larb

Nok's also has a classic beef larb, but more interesting during this meal was the larb salmon salad ($15.99, above), which uses many of the other ingredients of the dish but with lightly cooked chunks of salmon. While the dish has not found its way to many stateside menus, salmon is a more common ingredient in larb in Laos, and requires cooking with much less spice and herbs than normal as not to cover the fish's flavor.

This dish was caught somewhere in between the two, not quite letting the salmon shine through and not quite being full flavored with herbs and chili. But we can count on Nok's to bring a cutting edge to Lao food in Orange County, and will look forward to seeing if the dish evolves in the future. For a next visit, the beef will be paired with that beautiful basket of sticky rice.


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