Vientiane's Nam Kao Tod
Vientiane's Nam Kao Tod

No. 70. Nam Kao Tod at Vientiane Restaurant

Vientiane is a Laotian restaurant that also serves Thai food in Little Saigon. Mostly, the fun and exotic dishes fall on the Lao side of their divide, but one Thai standout is the crispy fried rice dish called nam kao tod. It's a favorite dish of mine, and I'll invariably order it should I happen to see it served in a Thai restaurant.

The version at Vientiane is the best version we have in these Orange Acres. Starting with cooked rice that's been crisped to dark brown, they'll stir-fry the toasty bits into plain rice with generous helpings of pork meat and pork skin that add fat and pork flavor to the dish. The semi-gelatinous shreds of rich pork skin will be familiar to anyone that loves the guisados at Mexican taquerias.

The richness of pork is cut with the acidic calamansi, the potently tart citrus fruit native to Southeast Asia, and the bright flavors of shallot and cilantro. Being Thai, the dish has a light backburn in the throat thanks to whole dried chilis toasted in hot oil before any of the other ingredients were added to the cherry-red wok.

As rice dishes go, nam kao tod doesn't have the comfort-food mildness of congee, nor the broad, universal appeal of sushi rice. The cacaphony of Thai flavors and textures is like a gamelan orchestra in your mouth, assaulting the palate with exotic notes clanging a hundred off-beats a minute.

The list so far:

71. Chicken Ramen at Jinya Ramen Bar
72. Pig Snout at Tacos & Carnitas Sahuayo
73. Kale and Mushroom Flatbread at 320 Main
74. Congee at King Lobster Palace
75. Fish and Chips at Slapfish
76. Fries at Playground
77. Carne en Su Jugo at La Cocina de Mi Abuelita
78. S'mores at Ti Amo Biscotti & More
79. Broken Rice at Dat Thanh
80. Bulgogi and Potato Pizza at Chicken & Pizza Love Letter
81. Braised Bacon at Break of Dawn
82. Cake Donut at Cream Pan
83. Bistec de Pollo at Mercado El Rey
84. The Rhino at Rancho a Go Go
85. Cabernet Brownies at Blackmarket Bakery
86. Cookie Monster at Lola Ice Cream and Deli
87. Polenta Board at CUCINA Enoteca
88. Falafel Taco at Taco Asylum
89. Wagon-Wheel Bread at THE RANCH Restaurant
90. Toothpick Tacos at Mexico Supermarket
91. Hoppin' John at Memphis at the Santora
92. Free Beans and Chips at Taqueria Zamora
93. Pig in a Blanket Waffle with Gringo Bandito at Cafe Calacas
94. "Pork Hash" at Huong Giang
95. Sweet Chili Chicken Quesadilla At Kogi
96. Licuados at Mil Jugos
97. Hawaiian Ahi Poke at California Fish Grill
98. Takoyaki at Takoyaki Tanota
99. Fiesta Noodles at Jollibee
100. Chilaquiles Verdes Con Huevos Estrellados at La Tablita California

Click here to view our 100 Favorite Dishes of 2010!
Click here to view our 100 Favorite Dishes of 2011!

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