Sunday, January 27, 2008

Food of Laos

One of the best things about visiting a new country is trying the new foods. Lao food is similar to Thai food and some familiar staples are available at nearly all restaurants. Khao pad kai (fried rice with chicken), Pad Thai (fried noodle with chicken),

and spring rolls are popular options on all menus. Spring rolls come fresh or fried and the fried option is often impossible to find if you arrive to dinner late.

A popular breakfast option for locals is fue (rice-noodle soup) which often comes with your choice of beef, chicken, or pork and a bundle of greens that can be added as desired.

Our breakfast of choice in Laos was thanks to the French. Baguette vendors sold wonderful sandwiches throughout the country. Northern Laos offered egg and tuna sandwiches with lettuce and tomato and from Vientiane and below, pate sandwich with cabbage salad became the primary option. Regardless of where we were, Laura always begged for her morning omelette sandwich and somehow, vendors always provided.

Since we primarily traveled along the Mekong, it wasn't hard to find BBQ fish.

Charcoal grills run for lunch and dinner and cook up pork, chicken, and fish. There isn't a bus ride in Laos where a vendor won't offer you a BBQ-pasted chicken for your trip. My favorite new dish in Laos is laap salad, minced meat tossed with lime juice, green onions, garlic, and sometimes chilies. It is often eaten with sticky rice and the meat selection is duck, chicken, beef, pork, or fish. This meal was beef laap with steamed rice.

In the more densely populated areas, buffet style dishes are offered with steamed or sticky rice.

These buffet stands have a loyal client base as they are packed once they are open. Regarding the extremely rare and strange, the pumpkin burger is a popular tourist option on the 4,000 islands. The burger consists of ground pumpkin fried with egg. It's put onto a baguette and topped with cucumbers; you just need to add ketchup or chili sauce.

When on the road, there is nothing better than stashing up on snacks. It's important to find out what the locals like because Pringles prices are through the roof. I hit the fruit stand first where fresh oranges, bananas, and pineapple are always available. There is nothing like Southeast Asia fat bananas to recuperate from a hard day's travel.

In Laos, fresh tamarind is sold by the bagful making for a simple, tasty snack. A favorite for us is longan.

The brown peel is removed to reveal a tasty, grape-textured, white flesh.

The flesh surrounds a hard pit so don't bit it like a grape! Besides fruit, we often purchase the fried sticky rice with honey swirl for our busrides.

This tastes like a mixture of rice krispy treats and rice cakes of the United States. Chinese influence has brought fried dough to Laos. Bread stands offer all forms of Chinese doughnuts, which are tasty but rarely match a fresh Dunkin' Donut.

On one of our walks, Laura enjoyed one vendor's fried coconut, egg, and meat or veggie pie.

There were tasty but have been difficult to find elsewhere. Finally, to truly eat like a local, I tested my willpower by eating kai lu. We had a difficult time finding kai lu despite locals telling us it was readily available everywhere. The kai lu egg is kept in a steaming stainless steel kettle with other boiled eggs and therefore, isn't obvious to the clueless tourist. The duck embryo snack should first be cracked and the embryonic fluids sucked out.

Then, locals will typically take a small spoon and stir up the inside of the egg from the hole. I broke open the egg to reveal the embryo.

The snack is like eating a huge egg yoke with a couple of cold sores adding some flavor.

After kai lu, finding dessert is a must. The banana pancake is available although it resembles a French crepe more than Thailand's rotii. Stands serving sweet drinks like Thai tea, coconut milk, and various gelatins are popular. They allow customers to invent any mixture they would like. It was difficult to identify the juices so I kept my selections simple and just ordered the bright orange stuff.

The most common dessert stand is one that has numerous multi-colored snack in bowls.

Upon purchase, the customer selects two to three bowls. The bowls contain gelatin-like balls, beans, tapioca, and other unidentifiable glowing substances. The vendor then puts a scoop of all the selected items into a bowl and mixes it with sweetened coconut milk. Regardless of the selection made, it is AWESOME!

Next, it is off to Cambodia for new trials, tribulations, and treats!

Now, a break from the travel blog to pay tribute to a dear friend. Johnny Cockroach (see previous post for more on Johnny) passed away the other day in a fearsome attack. In memory of his dear soul, I have written an ode.

Ode to Johnny Cockroach

Oh, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny Cockroach
Why do people wish to poach?
Your eyebrows were sleak and slender
and your outer shell strong as a fender.
We met each other at Tribal guesthouse.
You crawled the floor just like a mouse.
In our room, you met your match,
a Spaniard with a killing itch to scratch.
When she picked up that size 11 shoe,
I thought it was doom and gloom for you.
But then you scampered and you scattered.
The Spaniard search leaving bags torn and tattered.
Grinning, you watched from the armoire shadow
as her evil eyes scanned with the speed of an arrow.
What was this crazy Spaniard doing?
Did she want you as a necklace, brooch, or earring?
The next night came, the room full of silence.
Maybe this day would have no violence!
Johnny moved with stealth, shielded by night.
It would just be a moment, just a quick bite.
Then, the keylock sounded and the door cracked.
The light came on, the Spaniard was back!
Dashing and dancing, you sprinted for dark,
but alas, the Spaniard hit her mark.
Little Johnny's face turned pale blue,
his final sight, the sole of a shoe.
Sad and terrible was the burial ground,
a trash bin holding toilet paper browned.
Oh, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny Cockroach,
your rustic shell could have made the finest brooch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeremy and Laura,

As always, reading about your adventures is exciting. I will have to say though Jeremy, I would never be as adventurous as you are with the food.

I went to visit your Dad today with Nancy and Greg . He looked really good for what he has been through. Tired but I think he was happy for the company. Your Mom was looking pretty good to. She went home tonight so hopefully she will be able to get some rest seeing that she will be in her own home. She will be headed back on Tuesday. Dick and Judy are going down tomorrow. If all goes well, we will see Tony come home on Wednesday.

Our basketball team is still doing quite well. We are 12 and 0. Everyone out there is looking to knock us off our pedestal. We are hoping to do the same as the Patriots!!

Well that's all for now, can't wait for the next entry. Take Care,