The thing that sets Laotian cooking apart from the cuisines of its neighbors Vietnam, China, and Thailand is the crisp, distinct, bright, bitter, sour, spicy flavors of its greens, herbs and proteins, delectably unadulterated by the sauces and sweeteners so otherwise prevalent in Southeast Asia. Our favorite place to sample this absolutely unique cuisine is Green Papaya Deli, an unprepossessing family-run storefront where authentic home-style Laotian dishes are the star attraction. Try the larb (the country's national dish), a hearty, spicy salad of marinated minced duck, galangal, lime, and lemongrass; moke pa, a head-smacking platter of pungent steamed catfish wrapped in a banana leaf; the multifaceted yet beautifully balanced shrimp-squid-papaya-peanut-cucumber-cabbage salad; or a richly flavored bowl of chicken coconut soup edged with bitter lime, scallions, and chili peppers. Despite its name, Green Papaya Deli is really a restaurant (although everything's available to go), so you can savor these dishes sitting down.
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