Laap, minced meat mixed with roasted rice, lime juice, fresh herbs and fresh chili, has its origins in northeast Thailand and Laos, and is a dish known well outside the region. Laap as it's served in northern Thailand is an entirely dish altogether and is virtually unknown outside of the region. The most popular type among locals, laap khom, literally 'bitter laap' combines minced raw meat, typically beef, mixed with a curry paste and bitter bile from the stomach of a cow. It's easy to see why laap khom isn't going to be the next molten chocolate cake. I tend to stick with the 'safe' version, laap khua, 'fried laap'. This version takes basically the same ingredients, but with the addition of some very unique dried spices and bit of offal, and sees them fried and topped with crispy deep-fried garlic and green onion. Both kinds of northern-style laap are served with a small dish of tiny cloves of garlic and fresh chilies, and a plate of fresh veggies and herbs, many of which are unknown outside of northern Thailand, and which possess bitter flavours.
The laap khua pictured above is from Laap Khom Huay Puu, a tiny restaurant just outside Pai, Mae Hong Son, that specialises in the dish. Theirs is my personal favourite version. The pork laap, shown above, is rich with the flavour of two local dried herbs, makwaen and diiplii, which add a bitter/hot flavour not unlike Szechuan pepper. Karen at Rambling Spoon goes into more detail on these unique spices here. The pork version of the dish uses a somewhat dry chili paste containing a slightly different spectrum of herbs and spices than the more paste-like one used for the beef version. I'm not sure if the cow bile, dii wua, is added to the pork version as it is to the beef version. Served with a big basket of warm sticky rice and a plate of herbs, it's one of my favourite meals in Thailand.
Laap Khom Huay Puu makes a total of about four, all meat-based dishes, including a pretty good beef soup:
The restaurant is located about two kilometres outside Pai along the way to Mae Hong Son.
Laap Khua Huay Puu (Google Maps link) Huay Puu, Pai, Mae Hong Son 053 699 126