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A TASTE OF LAOS
In a town not known for its unique and diverse cuisine, B & K Asian Kitchen stands out as an exceptional option for those who are looking for an uncommon dining experience. As one of only a handful of Lao restaurants in the entire nation, B & K Kitchen serves traditional Laotian dishes using fresh and authentic ingredients.
B & K Kitchen is located in a free-standing building on First Street between Olive and McKinley Avenues. Pong Douangboupha, herself Laotian, has owned the restaurant since its inception in 1989. It is easily accessible and has plenty of parking in its own private lot. The restaurant itself has about 15 tables and is spacious and clean. I was pleased to see that most of the tables were filled with a diverse clientele. (Read: I was not the only non-Asian in the house!) I was also very impressed with the friendly and knowledgeable wait staff who took time to answer my questions and help me decide what to order.
There are many items on the menu that would please the adventurous palate. The papaya salad is a traditional dish in many Southeast Asian cultures. B & K makes theirs "Lao-style" by using raw green papaya and adding a homemade anchovy sauce. A large plate is $4.25 and could easily be shared between four people.
Also on the menu are four unique "BK's Specialties". My favorite was lop, a meat dish in a spicy sauce sautéed with rice powder, green onion, mint and book tripe. Book tripe comes from, specifically, the lining of the third stomach of a cow. Mmmtasty! Lop can be ordered without the book tripe, but you should consider trying it. I thought the book tripe added an interesting layer of texture and flavor. Lop is normally served at parties or traditional religious ceremonies.
The second specialty I tried was sin lot. Sin lot is basically deep fried beef jerky served with keo mak lien, a roasted tomatillo dipping sauce. The flavor of the sin lot was amazing; it was smoky and slightly salty. Sin lot is typically a snack in Lao cuisine; it is eaten as a finger food and keeps well. Both specialties are usually paired with sweet rice, which is served in individual bamboo steamers. All the specialty items run between $6 and $8.
For those wanting a light, healthy meal that is 100% tripe-free, I would recommend the punh, which means "wrap" in Laotian. Punh is a Lao take on the popular lettuce wrap. You build your own punh using crisp red-leaf lettuce, sliced cherry tomatoes, bean sprouts, freshly cut cucumber and rice stick noodles. I ordered mine with shrimp and sautéed onions, but this dish could easily be made vegetarian. The thing that impressed be about the punh was the freshness and flavor of the produce. A generous order is $7.95.
For the conservative diner, there are familiar items like fried rice, stir-fries, soups, and pad thai. At your request, all of these dishes can be made vegetarian with extra vegetables and without fish sauce. To drink, there are a variety of teas and exotic juices. B & K serves a few domestic and imported beers as well as soda.
Take it from someone who has eaten at The Elephant Bar a few too many times: B & K Kitchen is a refreshing change of pace. Whether you go for the traditional Lao items or more well-known fare, you will have a unique dining experience you can't get many places besides Fresno and, well Laos.
B & K Kitchen is located at 1276 N. First between Olive and McKinley and is open 7 days a week for take-out or dine-in. Call 237-3918 for more details.