Possibly our favorite on the list, Taksura seems to take some cues from Japanese kakiage with all the essentials—minced pork, shallots and spices—coated in a light batter and deep-fried tempura style. The result is a nice, light and crispy snack, salty and spicy but ultimately well-balanced—a steal at B100 per serving.
Ekkamai Soi 8, 089-227-4040. Open daily 6pm-1:30am. BTS Ekkamai
The food at this spin-off of Isaan chain San Saab is as spicy as its name suggests. The great thing about their laab tod (B130) is that the heat is not overwhelming, but gradually rises to prominence. Before you know it, though, you might be calling on liquid refreshment—go during happy hour when it’s buy-one-get-one-free on draught beer (Mon-Thu 6-8pm). For a more palatable bite, try the deep-fried duck breast with crispy rice (B210) and jim jaew.
Opposite Seenspace, Thonglor Soi 13, 02-712-6141. Open daily noon-midnight. BTS Thong Lo
One of our top spots to enjoy somtam and all the Isaan classics in an air-con setting, Somtum Der also does a mean laab moo tod (with pork, B90). Crunchy on the outside and really moist and fine on the inside, the flavors are very well balanced while the spiciness levels won’t kill your taste buds. Add a little squeeze of lime juice to freshen up the dish.
5/5 Sala Daeng Rd., 02-632-4499. Open daily 11am-10pm. BTS Sala Daeng/MRT Silom
It’s a long way to the top—and you may not get a seat on weekends—but Bangkok’s grungiest rooftop bar is worth the climb for some laab moo tod (B180) and a sundowner beer. The firm, perfectly crisp dish is particularly fiery, here, bursting with herb-y goodness. The owner makes her own dipping sauces also on sale at the bar. Drop by Mondays for the catchy, often comic acoustic sets by Will Corbin, Cian Green and Daniel Bates.
5/F, 6 Rangnam Rd., 089-895-4299. Open daily 5pm-1am. BTS Victory Monument
Known for its amazing lineup of fusion jazz, blues and classic rock, this live music institution also does a long list of comfort food, both Thai and international. The laab tod (B150) is a simple deep-fried snack, done right. All the more enjoyable while watching Lek T-Bone go wild on one of his trademark drum solos.
3/8 Phaya Thai Rd., 02-246-5472. Open daily 6pm-2am. BTS Victory Monument
Well-cooked and juicy, the laab tod here disintegrates in your mouth. There’s a funky Isaan sausage-like, acidic lead with a nice blend of salt, spice and herb to finish. The ideal snack to go with your hoppy craft beer or cider. We don’t mind paying B180 for the pleasure.
G/F, Seenspace, Thonglor Soi 13. Open 11-1am. BTS Thong Lo
This Ladphrao rock venue hosts rising indie acts seemingly every night, and also serves up a long list of comfort food perfect for drinking. The laab moo tod (B140) isn’t the very best in town, but it is darn flavorful if a little dry. We do like the side of jim jaew, too. You can’t really go wrong with much of the fried fare, here—the deep-fried crispy pork (B120) in particular.
Lad Phrao Soi 8. 086-866-8869. Open daily 6pm-2am. MRT Phahon Yothin
Way out of town, Parking Toys is worth the trek for its great live music. The food, too, generally hits the spot, from the well-rounded tom yum goong (B150) to the excellent laab tod (B120), made here with catfish. It’s a lot more delicate than pork, but has a nice earthy flavor encased in a crisp exterior. If you crave something firmer, go for the lab ped krob (B120).
17/22 Prasert-Manukitch Soi 29. 093-124-0434. Open daily 6pm-2am
We’re a little worried that this retro bar’s standards are slipping. But when they get it right, there are few things better than slurping down a huge and potent bowl of mojito during Tuba’s two-for-one-happy hour (5-8pm), while also gorging on their to-die-for, larger-than-average laab moo tod (B160)—juicy, with just the right amount of heat.
34 Ekkamai Soi 21, Sukhumvit Rd., 02-711-5500. Open daily 11am-midnight
How should a good laab taste?
We ask the experts what makes a well-balanced herbal minced meat salad.
Puri “Mungon” Chunkajorn
Chef Instructor at Dusit Thani College
“Good laab is all about the herbs, shallots, mint leaves, and khao kua (ground toasted rice) with a good amount of heat, but not too spicy. The key ingredient is the pork skin that gets sliced into little strips for that extra porkiness and texture. The ground pork meat should be moist and not overcooked.”
Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn
“One of my favorite dishes back in my college days, it’s simple and goes well with beer. The khao kua has to be freshly made and perfectly toasted for that nice aromatic smoky factor. Most importantly, you have to squeeze in fresh lime for the finishing to get maximum tanginess from both the juice and the oil from the skin.”
M.l. Parson Svasti
Food Critic, Judge on Iron Chef Thailand
“I am very fond of authenticity and ethnicity, thats why I love the real Isaan-style laab ped. They use fresh duck and add the duck’s skin oil from pan roasting for all that intense ducky goodness. Then they will also use the duck giblets and even its blood, and spice it up to the max. You should go to Song-pee Nong restaurant in Buriram–they do the most authentic laab ped ever.”