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Nalinh Restaurant Is Serving Lao and Thai Food in A Koreatown Dive Bar

You can find some of the most authentic Lao and Thai food at Nalinh Restaurant in Dallas' Koreatown.
Some of Nalinh Restaurant's specialty dishes include papaya salad, nam khao, and laab. Temoy Oredina

Nalinh Market, the former Lao and Thai grocerant, has reopened inside a Korean dive bar as Nalinh Restaurant. Owner Nikki Senephoumy announced its return on Facebook last month after its closure in October.

For 23 years, Nalinh Market operated out of an aging Irving strip mall. Inside, tables were crammed against aisles of shelves filled with Asian ingredients. Senephoumy and her mother, Boonmie Phennara, cooked some of the best Lao and Isaan-style Thai food in North Texas out of a small but mighty kitchen. Phennara retired in 2015, and Senephoumy took over.

“I didn’t want to lose what she had created and built,” Senephoumy says.

Senephoumy closed the old location because she wanted “a change of scenery.” She noticed more customers were coming in for the food versus the market, so she decided it was time to adjust. With more people working from home, the lunch crowd slowed considerably, Senephoumy says.

Now, Nalinh is back as Nalinh Restaurant to serve only food. Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Senephoumy is cooking out of DanSungSa’s kitchen before the dive bar opens. The setup with DanSungSa’s Dallas location has been in the works for a long time, Senephoumy says.

“My regulars from the old location come in and they’re so excited knowing that we’re back,” she says. “Everything I’ve been hearing is, ‘we’ve missed your food.'”

The menu is mostly the same, with items such as aromatic sticky rice, wok-fried pad Thai noodles, and herb-filled laab, though Senephoumy says she’s had to trim the menu in some places. Mok pa, a traditional steamed fish in banana leaf, was removed because Senephoumy thought it appealed to an older generation. At a recent visit, we still found plenty to eat.

The khaopiak, a Lao chicken noodle soup with stretchy white udon noodles and tiny quail eggs, is served in tiny metal pots. The soup is made by simmering a hen, ginger knobs, lemongrass, and onions until the meat is fully cooked and the broth is swirling with aromatics. The housemade noodles, which are a combination of rice and tapioca flours, are thick and chewy. The dish is served with a plate of chile flakes, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and fish sauce to alter the broth’s flavor to your liking. It’s a labor of love, says Senephoumy. “You can’t really take shortcuts on khaopiak.”

We had trouble deciding if our favorite dish was the paht peht or the yum talay. The paht peht is stir-fried in a red curry paste and filled with crunchy Thai eggplant wedges, green young peppercorns, and citrusy kaffir leaves. We ordered it with a combination of chicken, beef, and seafood. Yum talay—made with bouncy glass noodles, scored squid, shrimp, mussels, scallops, and sliced red onions—is tossed in a sweet and spicy fish sauce-based house dressing.

Nalinh is still in its soft opening phase. During our visit last week, Senephoumy said some things listed on the menu would be out of stock. Naam khao, a popular coconut fried rice with herbs and bits of cured pork, and khaopoon namh pah, a vermicelli noodle dish in fish curry broth, were both out of stock when we tried ordering. (Nam khao is now back in stock.) Senephoumy says she wants to try weekend specials and add desserts such as steamed coconut rice in banana leaf or sesame balls. Appetizers will likely expand, too.

Senephoumy plans to operate out of DanSungSa for as long as she can, which she hopes to be for a long time. She’s most looking forward to serving a new part of North Texas, in addition to her regular customers. “Not only am I bringing my customers to a place like DanDungSa,” she says, “but I’m also getting the opportunity to expose their customers to Lao cuisine.”

Nalinh Restaurant, 11407 Emerald St. Ste. 121. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Nataly Keomoungkhoun

Nataly Keomoungkhoun

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Nataly Keomoungkhoun joined D Magazine as the online dining editor in 2022. She previously worked at the Dallas Morning News,…

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