Here’s what the magazine said about the restaurant:
After years spent cooking Japanese food around Oklahoma City, chef Jeff Chanchaleune has turned his considerable talents to the Lao food he grew up eating — and he is pulling no punches. His food is mouthwatering and sizzling with complexity, leaning into the earthy-salty-funky punch of fermented seafood and big chili heat that makes Lao cuisine so irresistible. Be sure to order plenty of sticky rice and jaew, and take the menu’s advice to eat with your hands. Dipping and scooping your way across a table covered with saucy plates is by far the best way to experience the gutsiness and delicacy of Chanchaleune’s vision.
Chef Jeff Chanchaleune also was a James Beard semifinalist as the best new chef in the Southwest region. So it’s safe to say he’s a pretty big deal in good cuisine.
The Oklahoman newspaper reported:
Chanchaleune’s family came to this country as refugees from Laos before he was born and first lived in a house just blocks away from where Ma Der stands in the Plaza District.
Ma Der means “come on through,” and the food is Chanchaleune’s interpretation of family hospitality. His grandfather was of Lao descent but worked for the Thai government, giving him a unique view into the cultural appropriation of Lao cuisine.
“A lot of Thai food originated in Laos,” Chanchaleune said. “During colonial times, Laos was under the rule of Thailand. You’ll find papaya salad, laab gai (minced chicken) and sticky rice in Thai restaurants, but those originally came from Laos. Lao food is even spicier than Thai food.”
Ma Der Lao is at 1634 N. Blackwelder Ave. (map here), a half-mile south of the NW 23rd Street alignment of Route 66 in OKC.
This may be surprising to some, but Oklahoma City for years has been known as a hotspot for Vietnamese food. Many of those restaurateurs were Vietnam War refugees who settled in the city, and they brought their cuisine with them.
It’s a time of high cotton for Oklahoma City foodies. The historic soul-food haven, Florence’s Restaurant, earned that city’s first-ever James Beard Award earlier this year.
(Image of a bowl of khao soi at Ma Der Lao Kitchen in Oklahoma City via its Facebook page)