Authentic Isan Thai Food at Larb Ubol
Larb Ubol, in Hell's Kitchen, serves up authentic Isan Thai food that will have you coming back for more. Isan, a region in northeast Thailand, dominates the food scene across the entire country despite containing only 30% of the population.
I ordered the Larb Moo (pork) salad ($9), which consists of finely ground pork, shallots, fresh mint, scallions, cilantro, chili powder and lime dressing. Larb is a Thai salad, although instead of a vegetable salad, it's a meat salad. If I'd never had a taste explosion before now, this dish would definitely cause one. Upon first bite, I exclaimed 'wow!' It was like being hit in the face with a fish, but in a really good way! The flavours in this dish really delight the senses: you have spicy, salty, sweet and sour all in the same plate. Make sure to order a side of sticky rice.
Sticky rice, or Khao Kua, is one of the most essential ingredients in any Thai larb meal. This is a very important component of the dish, as it gives the pork a crunchy bite and a roasted fragrance.
Chef and owner Ratchanee Sumpatboon (known to friends as Poodam which means 'black crab'), grew up in Isan, which is prone to floods and drought, and is one of the country's poorest areas. The food from Isan tends to be quite simple and spicy, and sticky rice is a staple. One of Isan's most iconic dishes is 'Som Tam' or papaya salad.
For dessert I ordered the coconut ice cream ($5), which was served with peanuts, ginkgo, and palm seeds. When the dish was placed in front of me, I initially thought the ginkgo was corn kernels! This was the first time I've ever had palm seeds. They look jelly-like in appearance but are more chewy. Truly, a very interesting and enjoyable meal. I can't wait to go back!
Larb Ubol: 480 9th Ave, New York, NY 10018