Well, not exactly. If you want to get all technical, Phrae is generally regarded as the spiritual homeland of the northern-style version of laap. But neighbouring Nan has a pretty good laap scene as well, as I learned on a recent visit.
My first experience in Nan-style laap was at Pu Som, a dark restaurant decked out with Cowboys and Indians paraphernalia. Fittingly, the emphasis here is on meat, specifically beef.
Pu Som's laap khua neua, cooked beef laap (illustrated above), is predominately beefy, emphasising meat over spice or heat. It's also slightly wet in texture and just slightly bitter, due to the addition of beef bile. Like all versions of the dish, it's topped with deep-fried crispy garlic and a mix of chopped coriander and green onion.
The dish in the middle of the pic is nam phrik khaa, a dip made from shredded galangal that usually accompanies neua neung, a northern Thai dish of coarse cuts of beef steamed over herbs. Dry, pungently herbal and spicy, Pu Som's is one of the best versions of the dish I've encountered. I'd be more than happy with just this tiny bowl and a basket of sticky rice.
Just around the corner from Wat Phumin - my favourite temple in Thailand - is what is allegedly many Nan residents' favourite place for local-style laap, Laap Khue Wiang.
Here I ordered the pork version, laap muu khua:
The first thing I noticed here was that the spice mixture is quite coarse, as were the cuts of meat, which include bits of crispy deep-fried intestines and liver, as well as lots of fatty skin. The dish was well-seasoned, with an emphasis on the spices, and was both crunchy and chewy.
In talking to the woman preparing the dish, I learned that, rather than simply employing different proteins, beef and pork laap are essentially quite different dishes. She explained that she uses an entirely different spice mixture for the pork version, one that uses a variety of spices including not only the usual suspects makhwaen and deeplee, but cinnamon and coriander seed, among others. I had a whiff and it had a complex, almost sweet scent. Unlike other vendors, she doesn't use blood in her pork laap as she doesn't like the dark colour it gives the dish. She then went on to explain that her beef version includes a very simple spice mixture that includes only makhwaen, deeplee and chili, and the dish is darkened with blood and bittered with bile.
Pu Som Th Mano, Nan 081 675 3795 11am-midnight
Laap Kheu Wiang 14/3 Th Robmueang Thittai, Nan 054 77 2092 9am-9pm
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