1. Mee Mama ໝີ່ມາມ່າ
At an average cost of 35 cents a bag, Mee Mama was probably one of the most valued noodles in Laotian American homes. Named after the Thai brand of instant wheat noodles, the golden yellow bag of Mama’s Artificial Pork flavor remains one of the most iconic. With a savory seasoning full of scallions (dehydrated), a garlicky oil packet and another for dried chilli, it was delicious on its own, but a poached egg was all you needed to dress it up. If we’re talking fancy, you could add dried shrimp, cut up yaw (Vietnamese pork roll), or pork fuzz. If we’re talking childhood memories, then crushed up and raw straight out the bag was the way to go. Yup, just like the cool kids. What makes mee Mama unique, along with other Thai style ramen, is that the noodles are baked until toasted, so technically they’re edible as is. Crushed up in its own bag with or without its seasonings sprinkled on, mee Mama was all that because it was our bag of chips. Pro-tip: If you prefer snacking on crunchy noodles, Wai Wai brand toasts theirs just a little bit browner and the “Oriental Flavor” is a dupe for Mama’s artificial pork. If you use all of the seasoning, it contains a lot of sodium so don’t forget to drink water!
2. Khao Poon ເຂົ້າປຸ້ນ
Khao poon is what gets served at birthdays. Khao poon is what gets served at weddings. Khao poon gets served at nearly every Lao celebration - heck if more than 10 Laotian people are in a room it calls for making khao poon! The broth for this vermicelli noodle has many variations, but the one you’ll find served at the aforementioned Lao parties will be the red curry coconut milk version. Made with either chicken, pork, or fish - most guests get excited (with love or hate) over chicken feet and blood curds. But the best part of eating khao poon is assembling your bowl. An assortment of crunchy veggie garnishes include long beans, cabbage, banana blossoms, carrots, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs like mint, cilantro and basil.
Traditional khao poon noodles are made from fermented rice strands dropped in water which has to be eaten within the same day - perhaps that’s how thum khao poon was invented, as a way to eat something that would otherwise go bad. Thanks to technology we can enjoy store bought khao poon, although because the strands are so thin they still must be cooked separately from the soup and reserved until serving time. If the noodles are laid - and by laid we mean laid, like this - you’re in luck, that’s the telltale sign your khao poon was made by an OG.