Saiphin Moore and the team behind Rosa’s Thai Cafe have launched Lao Café near Covent Garden, a permanent spot after their previous successful pop up at Gillingham Street. Born to a native Lao family in Thailand’s Phetchabun province, Saiphin is visiting her roots and upbringing with traditional Lao salads, curries and chargrilled dishes. We find out more…
Describe Lao Café in three words…
Exciting. Vibrant. Spicy.
Tell us about your background and where you grew up…
I grew up in Phetchabun province, in the North-eastern part of Thailand, bordering Laos. My family is still back in Khao Kor village, which I visit at least once a year.
Your favourite early food memories…
Because of the cold and dry climate in Phetchabun, my family would grow all kinds of produce; from carrots to broccoli, strawberries to cabbage. I was always responsible for picking out the fruits and vegetables that would be used in our meals for the rest of the day.
How would you describe the traditional food from Laos?
Laotian food is based on the philosophy of cooking whatever you can find. So you can find unusual ingredients like ant’s eggs, frogs, bugs, banana flowers and leaves. Because Laos is land-locked, there are no coconut trees, so we don’t use coconut milk, which can be found in traditional Thai food.
How did Rosa’s Thai Cafe begin?
We started serving food on a Sunday market on Brick Lane. After years of that, we found an old greasy spoon on Hanbury Street that was on offer. We kept the name Rosa’s, to pay respect and to remind us of where we came from, and the rest is history.
What dishes are your must-tries at Lao Café?
The Spicy Chicken Soup with Toasted Black Sesame is the perfect winter soup. My favourite is definitely the Mixed Mushrooms Curry with Ant’s Eggs, great for the adventurous!
What ingredients could you not live without?
Fermented anchovies and shrimp paste. Both are great for adding the Umami flavours to my Laotian dishes!
Your top tip for cooking Thai or Laos style food?
Whenever possible, try to use fresh ingredients. Frozen or canned ingredients will really affect the flavour of the final dish. Always use freshly-squeezed lime juice.
Your favourite food local loves in London?
I love Italian food at Il Bordello. It’s the best I’ve ever had outside of Italy, and the service is always outstanding!
Lao Café | 60 Chandos Place, London WC2N 4HG