Sunday, August 7, 2011

Food eaten together always tastes good

Food is a quintessential part of Lao life. Their cuisine is unique and diverse, incorporating tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salty.

Eating is a very social occasion with everybody gathering around the table to eat and drink together. Low woven bamboo tables are placed on the floor, and everyone squeezes up to fit so they can reach the array of dishes.

Lao food is usually served as it comes from woks. There is no concept of entree, mains or dessert. All the dishes are shared with everyone dipping in their spoons, forks or hands. It is said that food eaten alone doesn’t taste as delicious.

This passion for food was shared with a group of volunteers who attended a Lao cooking class, hosted by Tamnak Lao Restaurant. The day commenced with a trip to the main Lao food market, where we were taught about all the Lao ingredients. For the more unique fruits and vegetables we were told of substitutes that we would find in our home towns.

We then returned back to cooking school where we had two popular dishes demonstrated to us which we then cooked for lunch, sharing with our partners in traditional Lao style. For dinner we were demonstrated five dishes which we sampled, and cooked three. After this we also learnt how to cook sticky rice; a Lao staple, and jeowbong - a famous Luang Prabang chilli paste.

Having the opportunity to cook, understand and taste the array of flavours and dishes has installed the Lao delight for food into us and we look forward to sharing with our friends and families.

For those reading this missing the taste of Laos, enjoy the recipe below. For those of you looking to come...a sample to whet your appetite. Enjoy!

Tamnak Lao Luang Prabang Salad

This recipe serves one or two people if eaten on its own. If eaten with other dishes, the salad would be enough for three or four.


  • Salad leaves – any can be used (mixed leaves or baby leaves are ideal)
  • Watercress – if not available, up the amount of salad leaves
  • 1 sliced tomato
  • 1 sliced medium cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon crushed, unsalted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon minced pork (optional)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 sliced hard boiled egg
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper – finely ground black pepper can also be used
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Coriander (Cilantro) for garnish

Prepare the mayonnaise:

1. Take two of the hard boiled egg yolks and place in a food processor, blender or other suitable mixer.
2. Add the oil, vinegar, sugar, pepper and salt.
3. Blend until smooth.

Make the salad:

1. Spoon half the mayonnaise onto the salad leaves and watercress, and mix well.
2. Place the salad leaves/watercress on a plate or in a bowl in a pyramid shape.
3. Place the sliced cucumber around the base of the pyramid and the sliced tomato on top of the cucumber slices.
4. Place the sliced egg on top of the cucumber and tomato. Use the leftover hardboiled egg whites to garnish the salad.
5. Sprinkle the crushed peanuts and some of the coriander on top of the salad.
6. If using pork, fry it in a little oil and when cooked, place it over the top of the salad.

TIP: If you like the flavour of mint, feel free to add this to the salad.

By Chloe