Comfort foods, they are like a warm hug from an old friend. You seek them out when familiarity is needed to qualm whatever hardships the day has brought. Depending where you’ve lived, they come in differing forms. If you’re American there is a good chance it’s pot roast, chili, or pizza. If you’re Mexican it’s probably tacos, birria, or pizza. Italians have pasta, gelato, or… well you know.
Thailand has many comfort foods. The kind of warm and hearty kick in the pants that is equal parts spicy and sweet. I’m not Thai, but I’ve lived here long enough to form a relationship with laab. It’s what I’ll search out down the road when I need a nostalgic sensation of rice fields toned by distant motorbikes. Glutinous sticky rice, som tam, and herbs non-negotiable.
The call for comfort food is strongest when your are furthest from home. When in a far away land, you don’t want anyone’s mac and cheese. You want your Mother’s, your grandmothers, you want to taste the thing and know it was made by someone who cares cares about you, in whatever capacity. That’s what comfort food is really about, comfort.
The neighborhood laab shack is a thing of beauty. A place where everyone is welcome and the only agenda is eat, drink, and occasionally glance at Muay Thai playing on that small tv in the corner. Everything is warm and nothing can harm you.
My Neighborhood laab spot is of the Issan variety. That’s to say the food here is on the spicy and sour end of the spectrum. The menu is small and has pictures throughout. A page for som tam, one for laab, another for soups, and the last for grilled meats. The sweet woman that runs it cooks just a few feet from the traffic, and always has a smile when she sees me. Even had to take a picture when I brought my American friends here because the thought of fare skinned Farang enjoying her food was one that needed remembering – I live in a very Thai neighborhood.
These photos and this review are about my neighborhood laab spot. And I do think the food here is made exceptionally well and very much worth the trip. However, my advice is to seek out whoever is making this oh so delicious Thai taco meat in your neck of the woods. Maybe one day it will be the comfort you seek when you’re in a new and unfamiliar place. The thought of which will remind you of the kind person that cooked it, and know that it was made just for you.
Neighborhood Laab Spot
Open: Early Afternoon-22:00ish
This restaurant doesn’t have a Google maps location so just follow this one for the spot next to it. It has blue walls with a red sign that reads “อีสานเหรีซมแง”. You should see a cheerful woman out front pounding some som tam or frying up some laab.
The Good Stuff Chiang Mai