I got a call not long ago from a reader seeking Laotian food. “None that I know of in Charlotte,” I said, sadly. A month later, JP to Go pops up on my Facebook feed. Bingo!
So what kind of food comes from Laos? Look at a map southeast Asia and you’ll find Laos nestled between Vietnam and Thailand. If you like either of those cuisines, you’ll enjoy discovering what JP to Go has to offer.
Johnny Vong and his wife Pone Naovarath, both in their early 30s, started JP to Go in 2017. They park their bright blue trailer next to her parents’ V & K Asian Market at 2626 Little Rock Road, just off Interstate 85 near the airport. Naovarath’s family came to the U.S. as refugees from Laos after the Vietnam War. Their store specializes in fresh vegetables from southeast Asia, attracting customers from far beyond Charlotte.
My favorite item on the JP to Go menu are the chubby Lao sausages grilled on wooden skewers. “They’re homemade from my mom and mother-in-law’s recipes,” Vong says. “In Laos, they are called sai kok — pork, a little bit of rice, two different herbs.”
You can get the sausages in a combo with what the menu lists as “pork fried rice.” It’s actually a Lao favorite called nam kao: crunchy rice tossed with onion, peanuts and bits of ham. Or craft your own combo by ordering pad thai, a robust Lao version of the familiar noodle dish found at Thai restaurants.
Want something spicy? Select the papaya salad, perhaps the most popular dish in Laos, composed of strands of green papaya in savory fish sauce. Or get chicken wings in Lao-inspired sweet-hot flavors.
Ask about daily specials, which tend to be traditional. Larb: minced chicken or beef with spicy seasoning. Bahn coun: morsels of pork and mushroom embedded in a sort of rice custard which you douse in golden fish sauce. Bamboo soup: thick and complex with greens and pork.
While you wait the 10 minutes for your to-go box, you’ll usually have lots of company — non-Asian warehouse workers, bodybuilders from a nearby gym, a carload of Asian high school kids, an Asian businessman in a suit and tie, all on one recent day.