Of course we couldn’t close the taste of Lao chapter without talking about the drinks, and specially about the famous Beerlao. Beerlao is the country’s insignia, almost more representative than its flag! This lager is light, crisp, refreshing and definitively addictive. The best way to enjoy it is watching the sun set at any bar overlooking the Mekong river. While the locals drink it with ice, we still prefer it just chilled. Oh Beerlao, how much we miss you!
Rice is the staple food for the Laotians, specially steamed sticky rice. Sticky rice is traditionally served on cute bamboo baskets and it is eaten with anything: with meat, with fish and even with soups. In Lao, sticky rice is eaten with the hands, take a small amount of rice, press it to make a compact ball and then dip it into the main dish or eat it with the barbecued chicken or pork.
The cooking of the rice is simple, as we learnt in the cooking course in Luang Prabang. First the grains are washed thoroughly and soaked in water for several hours. Then the water is drained off and the rice is put in a steamer. After steaming it for around 20 to 30 minutes, the rice is moved to another container and moved around so it releases the steam until it has cooled down. The rice is ready to be served.
When peckish many are the options to calm your hunger around the streets of any Laotian town, village or city. Rice crackers, spring roles, seasonal fruits… just walk around, visit the many food stalls and markets and choose whatever you are in the mood for!
If you are looking for a healthy option, fresh spring rolls is the answer, much nicer than the fried ones. While this type of spring rolls are originally from Vietnam, they can be found through all South East Asia. Herbs, vermicelli noodles, lettuce, spring onions and some kind of meet are wrapped in moistened rice paper. The spring rolls are served with a sweet fish sauce or hoisin dipping sauce. We just couldn’t stop eating them since we first tried them!
In Lao we were introduced to a new concept of salad named Larp (also known as laap or larb). Larp is a wonderful meat salad, a classic within Laotian cuisine, consistent and delicate at the same time, easy to make but complex in textures, definitely not just a simple greens salad. Being the salad lover that I am, you can imagine how happy I was when we found out that a salad was one of the most traditional Lao dishes.
Larp can be made of chicken, fish, beef, tofu or pork. The minced meat is cooked in a wok with just a little bit of water. Once cooked, it’s set aside and mixed with finely sliced banana flower, kaffir lime leaves, spring onions, shallots, garlic, coriander, lemon grass and rocket leaves. One of the key ingredients is the rice powder, which gives the salad a very interesting and different texture. Rice powder is just roughly ground toasted rice that is used together with fish sauce and lime juice to make the dressing for the salad. If you are looking for a new type of salad I would recommend you give this one a go, so simple to make and so tasty that you won’t be disappointed!
Over the past few weeks we have been indulging our stomachs with tasty fresh rice noodle dishes. We have eaten them thin or thick in many restaurants and we have seen them in almost every market but we still didn’t know how they were made. Until in Muang Sing we had the opportunity to see how a woman was making them at her home. We found it very interesting so we we wanted to share it!
First the rice is grounded. Here it is a manual process but I guess at home a blender can be used.
Next, the rice powder is mixed with water to make a batter.