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Cooking in Laos with Andrew and Courtney

Winter Vacation 2008/2009 - New Year's Laos style


View Winter Vacation 2008/2009 on agc_cwm's travel map.

It was the end of 2008 and we decided we should spend the day cooking and learning about Lao food. We had to check out of our hotel and get down to the Tamarind restaurant for 8:45. We arrived and milled around for fifteen minutes, then were packed into a couple tuk-tuks and taken off to the market. There were twelve people on our course: two from London, one American, a German lady, one other Canadian, another Brit and the rest were from Australia.

Our two guides took us through the market. There was one guide at the front leading the path and the other guide at the back herding people along and making sure no one got lost. The market was similar to other markets that we’ve been to. Our guide said that Laos people like to go to the markets three times a day, they want to use fresh vegetables and herbs in everything they make.

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After we went through the market we were tuk-tuked off to a ‘secret’ location to do our cooking course. It was a gorgeous spot along the river. It was quiet and relaxed, there wasn’t much else happening out there. We sat down at the table for a drink before we got down to business.

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The first thing we had to make was steamed rice. They’d been soaking the rice all night and all we had to do was massage the rice (to get the starch off the rice), and then put it in the steamer. We made two kinds of sticky rice, white and purple.

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The second dish we made was jeow mak keua, eggplant dip. You had the option to make this or jeow mak lin , tomato salsa, which was the spicier option of the two. We went the less spicy route. We had to roast the eggplant, garlic and shallots before we pounded the dip.

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We finished making the dip then got down to eating it. To eat it you had to take a little clump of sticky rice, roll it around to make sure it sticks together and then flatten it into a small disc. Then you place the disc on the tips of your fingers and, using it as a scoop, scoop up some of the dip and eat it. It was a very nice dip.

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The third thing we made was mok pa, fish steamed in banana leaves. Using a mortar and pestle we had to
crush and combine garlic, shallots, chilis, chopped fresh dill and basil to make a marinade for the fish. Once we made the paste we had to place the fish in the banana leaves and spoon the marinade over the fish. Then we folded the banana leaves into a little pouch and closed it with some bamboo ties and through it on to the fire to be steamed. It took about twenty minutes for it to cook.

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The fourth thing we made was orlarm, Luang Prabang stew. We made one big pot together. It was too difficult for us to make an individual bowl. Joy, our guide, said that traditionally Lao people put in dried meat of any kind: guinea pig, rats, bats, chicken, or anything they get hold of. He said that these different types of meat are difficult for people who aren’t used to eating them to eat. They decided that they’d stick with chicken.
The fifth thing we made was ua si khai, stuffed lemon grass. We had to create a paste, in the mortar and pestle, of garlic, spring onions, coriander and ground chicken. Then we had to slice the base of the lemon grass so that it can be pushed out to look like a lantern. Next was trying to stuff our paste into the lemon grass. I was not very good at this. Our guide helped me a little bit with this. We each made two of these, one to barbecue and one to deep fry. I think I preferred the deep fried one; the lemon grass flavor had permeated everything. They were both very tasty, though.

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The last thing that we made was purple sticky race with coconut cream. This was a pleasant end to the day. First we had to pour hot water over fresh ground coconut to get the cream, and then bring the cream to a boil. Once it’s boiling you throw in the rice and stir until it’s absorbed the milk. Then you’re ready. Well, we added banana, mango, and tamarind sauce to the concoction. A very tasty dessert.

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After the cooking course we had to check in to our new hotel. Then it was nap time. After some recovery time we set out for New Year’s.

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We settled in one restaurant with the plan of doing an appetizer crawl down the main street in Luang Prabang. The plan lasted through the appetizers. They impressed us so much we decided to stay for the rest of our meal. After the meal we wandered around until we made our way to the official Luang Prabang official city New Year’s party. We watched the show until we realized that, other than it being in Lao, the show was like every other New Year’s show we’d seen. We settled in to a café across the street and chilled out until midnight. That was our plan until they politely got us to leave at 11:45.

We went outside and watched everyone preparing to launch what looked like mini-hot air balloons.

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They would hold them and light the fuel cell in the bottom until the air inside heated up so the balloon would float. Then they released them and watched them go. We think people wrote wishes or something on the sides of the balloons before they released them. We watched about fifty people release these balloons. We sauntered back to our hotel for our first night in 2009.

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Happy New Year Everyone!

Posted by agc_cwm 07:53 Archived in Laos

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