Cooking class & food market, Luang Prabang - Laos

sunnuntai 10. joulukuuta 2017

 The Lao cuisine stands out from its Asian neighbours in its use of strong and sometimes bitter flavours, herbs and sauces. Greens and fresh vegetables are an integral part of every meal, accompanied by sticky rice and jeow(a fantastic strong dipping sauce).  The cooking class took place at our hotel (Sofitel) and I really enjoyed it: the chef was a good teacher, the ingredients were fresh and I had a nice time together with two American guys that also participated in the class. Unfortunately I messed up the settings of my camera so some of the pictures are not worth showing.

Our chef had put out ingredients, spices, sauces and recipes beforehand. There were only three cooking enthusiasts this morning: two guys from San Francisco and me. We started with a quick tour to the food market, which had a lot to offer and was small enough (only one street) to walk through rather quickly. The chef tried to answer all our questions and gave us some samples to taste, such as sticky rice balls with coconut. Sticky rice is used in both savory and sweet foods but I was not hugely impressed by the taste. I made another visit to the morning food market with my husband the following day. Pictures towards the end of this post.

The menu to be prepared was the following: Naem dip - Fresh spring rolls, Mok het - Steamed mushrooms in banana leaf, Phanaeng kai - Chicken curry and Oua si khai - Stuffed lemongrass.

Mok het consisted of different mushrooms, long eggplants, eggs, chilli, lemongrass, shallots, dill, kaffir lime, fish sauce, chicken powder, sugar, rice flour and salt. All the ingredients were mixed and placed in  banana leaves. The leaves were folded and sealed with a toothpick. Then steamed for 10 minutes and served with steamed or sticky rice. Interesting was that the Laos kitchen uses a lot of dill in many dishes.

Oua si khai - the stuffed lemongrass was a new acquaintance. I had eaten it the night before in a restaurant and loved the nice ball with its dipping sauce. You can use minced chicken, pork or beef. Vermicelli, onion, dill, eggs, chilli, fish sauce were the other ingredients. And of course the lemongrass stalks that first were steamed for a minute in order to get bendable. The balls were then formed around the lemongrass and everything was steamed for about 15 minutes and then dipped in egg and deep-fried for 2-3 minutes. Served with the strong jeow sauce that I love. I got a nice recipe for the sauce from a Laoborn chef and restaurant owner whom I met during her stay at the hotel. So thank you Kimber...I'm going to make the sauce for my Asian Christmas buffet on Christmas Eve.

After our excellent cooking session we were served all the dishes we had been preparing. Everything was extremely tasty and there was plenty of food so my husband was also invited. He had spent the morning working so he really appreciated this lovely lunch with a glass of white. 

Our chef (Ka-toke I think his name was) choosing veggies for the up-coming cooking session.

Buffalo meat in front.

The meat counter was abundant ... a little bit rough maybe ... good service though.

Yes, there are bats for sale ... at the food market.

These banana blossoms/flowers/hearts are hanging at the end of banana clusters. Can be eaten raw or cooked and are common in the South-East Asian cuisine.They taste bitter when eaten raw but lose their bitterness when soaked in water. You eat "the soon to be bananas", that is the yellow florets you meet when you discard the tough reddish leaves. The leaves can be used as serving plates.

Fish in various forms and sizes. In the bottom left corner  you can see dried buffalo skin that is eaten as a snack but also used in different dishes.

Fresh seaweed and morning glory. My favourites. The Mekong river weed is made into these nice snacks. So good together with the strong chili sauce (jeow).

This coffee-stand is owned by a lovely Lao lady (who was married to a handsome American), also the owner of two guesthouses right behind her. If you are interested I have the co-ordinates. We enjoyed a refreshing glass of passionfruit juice squeezed from the fruits you see to the left. And I also bought this black ginger tea that cures every minor health problem. At least my headache disappeared.

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