17 June 2018: Today we spent a fun morning pretending to be Laotian chefs in Luang Prabang.
First stop was the huge Phosi Market where they sold everything from pink eggs, the local staple of sticky rice to every single part of the pig processed in many different ways. We also saw a lot of cured buffalo skin cut into many different shapes and sizes: this seemed to be some sort of local delicacy/snack but we didn’t try it out (the memories of the Bhutanese yak cheese are still a little too painful (see Blog Post “Ema datse” dated 13 April 2018)). Although to be fair we’ve already tried kai paan a few times (which translates as mekong river weed and is served in a dry crispy form coated in sesame seeds and is a pretty tasty snack (perhaps best not to concentrate on the river weed part)).
Back at the restaurant and, it has to be said, with a little help from some of the kitchen staff particularly with food presentation, we managed to whip up a huge feast of fresh spring rolls, ho mok pa (steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves), a really colourful and absolutely delicious keng phet kai (chicken in coconut milk soup) as well as lap kai (spicy chicken salad). The meal was also rounded off with our dish of sweet sticky rice with mango for a dessert which was way more appetising than its rather uninspiring name would lead you to believe.
It was fun to be back in the kitchen after almost 8 months of travelling As ever, most of the work comes in all the preparation: most Lao dishes seem to start with the same basic ingredients of garlic, ginger, galangal (rather ignorantly I had thought that was just another name for ginger but was told most sincerely that one should not be substituted for the other), shallots, garlic, lemongrass, lime juice, mint, coriander and of course lots and lots of chillies. This gives rise to a lot of chopping.
We didn’t quite manage to rock the chef look as well as Chef Linda
By now we have become accustomed to the hot and spicy Laotian food. Our very first meal in Vientiane was so spicy that we were very glad of the delicious (and very cooling) coconut ice cream which we had for dessert. Mind you we had been asked if we wanted spicy or not spicy and so perhaps had brought it a little on ourselves. But up until that point (apart from perhaps some of the ema datse in Bhutan) including (somewhat surprisingly) in India, the food has not really been chilli hot at all (tasty, yes, just not spicy).