A Culinary Adventure, From Gardens and Markets to Restaurants and Home Kitchens
Apr 18, 2013
01:27 PM
Local Flavor

Delicious Lao and Thai Food from Luang Prabang

Delicious Lao and Thai Food from Luang Prabang

For an indecisive person like myself, food carts offer an ideal dining experience. They cater not only to my structure-driven personality, serving a limited variety of dishes daily, but also to my flavor-obsessed tastebuds, preparing everything from ethnic fare, to vegan food, smoothies, barbeque and crepes.

Madison’s food cart scene continues to grow, and offers an incredible array of options. Once confined to Library Mall, food carts gather on side streets along State Street and around the Capitol Square. But of all the places to enjoy a delicious meal in our fair city, I still love grabbing a bite on Library Mall, soaking up the sun (anyone remember what that is?) and people watching. On a recent spring day I stopped at Luang Prabang, a Lao/Thai food cart that is relatively new to the scene.

Craving something I haven’t tried, I ordered Moak Pa, traditional Lao steamed catfish served with sticky rice. There are two components of that dish that alone would make me hesitate to order it—dill and catfish. But together they work. Incredibly well. The fish, onion and spices are mixed together and steamed in a banana leaf, then served with sticky rice, steamed fresh vegetables dressed with a slightly spicy tomato sauce and a side of a smoky hot chili paste that offered just the right amount of spice and flavor to complement the fish.

Tuy Anongdeth, owner and head chef of Luang Prabang, also makes fresh smoothies, juices and light snacks in her adjacent food cart, Fresh Cool Drinks; her sister staffs Luang Prabang. Tuy has lived in Madison for 13 years, and opened the smoothie cart a few years ago. If you are in the mood for light lunch fare, you can’t go wrong at Fresh Cool Drinks. Though the smoothies are to die for, featuring a gazillion fruit combinations, I also recommend the avocado spring roll, a combo of avocado, rice noodles, fresh vegetables, herbs and a tasty sauce. Though the reasonable price of $2.50 might suggest you need two, you don’t. They are enormous.

Library Mall’s mobile meals offer a diversity of Asian cuisine—Kakilima serves Indonesian fare, Hibachi Hut sells various stir fried dishes, Tea Garden vends bubble tea and hot dishes such as chicken curry, and Umami’s hot buns need no further explanation (their vegan tofu buns are new!).

Though Luang Prabang calls Library Mall home, you can find Tuy vending her juices and spring rolls around the Capitol square on Saturdays, and at the Northside farmer’s market on Sundays. Sunday brunch bonus—her husband also cooks up a hot breakfast, including pancakes, eggs, bacon and more!

To see all that Madison has to offer, check out Isthmus a la Carts, Madison’s annual food cart fest! Friday, May 10, 4–8 p.m., at Olin Park. isthmusalacarts.com

About This Blog

Writing has always provided an anchor for my passions, which focus deeply on food, dance, environmental conservation and culture. I grew up “helping” my dad cultivate a prolific garden that produced too many radishes and watching my mom make almost all of our food from scratch, including horehound candy. Meanwhile I took my first African dance class in high school, which ignited my continuing quest to travel to West Africa, via Europe and South America, to study dance.

Through my travels, I learned that we are all connected by food, and our basic need to eat. Since moving to Madison in 1998 to pursue degrees in conservation biology and dance, I have developed an appreciation for the richness of our local food community, and a great desire to share it with others. What started as a personal food blog, A World of Flavors, has since grown into a business teaching cooking classes and leading local and international food tours.

I look forward to sharing culinary adventures with you through my Madison Magazine blog Local Flavor and monthly Dining In recipe column.

  – Otehlia Cassidy
Follow Otehlia on Twitter @madisoneats

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