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I just had lunch from this very small but quite generous Lao-Thai spot on Jackson St. By all accounts a one-woman operation, SPK's menu shows about a dozen items, mostly familiar Thai standards (red and green curry, phat thai, etc.). However, the apparent signature dish would be som tam (green papaya salad), which is pounded to order in a massive wood mortar. The friendly proprietor asked if I liked it spicy, to which I said *yes*. She knew, perhaps intuitively, that my concept of spicy might be divergent, as she later showed me a large wooden spoon with about 12-15 red Thai chilis. I removed about half of these (she welcomed my shoulder-looking and invited me to taste the final product from the mortar for approval) and it still produced a salad with an infernal undertone of chili heat, punchy with fish sauce and lime, and topped with crushed peanuts. My head is still buzzing as I write this. She also included three cooked shrimp.
I also tried the Lao sausage, which she recommended over the beef jerky. House-made, it tasted very fresh and savory, but without the strong note of ginger or galangal that I have found in the links I purchase from Vientiane Asian Grocery. The four sausages were served with chopped cabbage, toasted cashews, and a side of stir-fried vegetables dusted with black pepper.
I asked her if she had jaew, and without hesitation she said "I'll make it." She presented a dark, sour, spicy mixture; thinner than other versions I have had, with a distinctive smokiness the origins of which were unclear.
Each dish is a very good value at $7 (the menus say $5.99, although perhaps the additional dollar charged factors in tax and the included water/soft drink and box of rice). I would certainly visit again.
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