Somchan Restaurant was discovered by the guidebooks several years back, but nothing like this spritely, sour fish lab (as they spell it; 25,000 kip) has found its way anywhere near New York. Here in the city, the common signifier for an "authentic" larb is a lettuce leaf, topped with minced beef, pork, or chicken that often acquires a grainy mouthfeel — nothing like the mild, moist, firm-fleshed (but unidentified) fish shown here. Anyone know where to find fish larb in New York?
My other dish was the traditional Luang Prabang pairing of khái pâen and jąew bąwng (15,000 kip), or fried river moss and chunky, chili-zinged water-buffalo-skin jam. The jąew bąwng (pronounced something like jeoh-bong) was spicy-sweet and inoffensive; off the beaten path, dried-meat devotees might find a gamier version. (I couldn't.) While some of the local kids took a dip in the Mekong River, I cooled down with a pineapple shake with fresh milk and coconut (5,000 kip).
Th. Suvannabanlang, Luang Prabang, Laos
(From a November 2006 visit)