Laos – Luang Prabang – cooking Laotian food

As I mentioned in my last post I took two cookery classes at two different restaurants while I was in Luang Prabang, both of which were really interesting and enjoyable. Not sure if the toque did me any favours though.

I chose them because they started with a trip to the market (see previous post) so we could know something about the ingredients we were cooking.

The first class was with Bamboo Tree

I went down to the restaurant first thing and met my fellow classmates; a nice Australian lady and her two sons who were planning to become professional chefs.

Linda the restaurant owner, chef and cookery teacher explained all the ingredients we’d be using.

Here she’s talking about the many kinds of rice in Laos.

All the prep had been done for us thankfully.

But we were hands on for the actual cooking.

Here I’m making Kai Pad Phet; fried chicken with red chilli paste and coconut milk.

The best thing we learned to make was the Oua Si Khai or Stuffed Lemongrass. First you make a cage by slicing through the white part of the stalk at different angles. Video from the second class here.

The cage is stuffed with mince meat (chicken or pork) that has been seasoned with garlic, shallots, fish and soya sauce.

It’s then dipped in cornflour, egg and breadcrumbs (panko in our case).

Finally the lemongrass stalks are shallow-fried before being cut in half and served. A brief video here.

It should be served with Jeow, a chilli paste made with chillis, galangal, lemongrass, fermented soya bean paste and sometimes buffalo skin.

We also made Ho Mok Pa, steamed fish wrapped in bamboo leaf packages held together with toothpicks.

Along with the fish inside the package was lemongrass, dill, spring onion, Lao basil, eggplants, chillis, coconut miilk, fish sauce, shallots and lime leaves.

Next up was Lap Kai; spicy chicken salad.

And here we have Tam Mak Hung; Lao green papaya salad.

To decorate this we were taught a bit of cucumber art. Video here.

This is the finished Kai Pad Phet.

And of course this was accompanied by steamed sticky rice. It should be soaked overnight and then washed in three changes of water. Traditionally in Laos it’s then cooked in a bamboo steamer.

And then we sat down and ate it all. A shot or two of the national spirit, Lao Lao rice ‘whisky’, helped with digestion.

So now I’m a bonafide Laotian chef!

My second class was at The Tamarind Café

Again we met in the morning at their Kingkitsarath Road Restaurant and were taken on a guided tour of Phosy Market (see previous post). After this we were bussed to their dedicated cookery school at another location outside of town.

The classroom is an open sided wooden building overlooking a pond with a kitchen garden behind it.

Growing in the garden, amongst many many other things, were Pea Aubergines, Sweet Basil and some unripe Passion Fruit.

Generally Tamarind seemed better kitted out for teaching large groups. We all had our own charcoal burners for example whereas at the Bamboo Tree there were only two stations for the woks. They could have taught a much larger group which may or may not be a good thing.

Again we had an introduction to the ingredients we were making.

We made Oua Si Khai aka Stuffed Lemongrass again but this time they were only dipped in egg and not flour and breadcrumbs as well.

Lemongrass can be quite expensive back the UK so it was good to hear that leeks, aubergines or courgette flowers could be used instead.

We were taught to make Jeow Mak Ken, a tomato version of the chilli dipping sauce that accompanies rice and vegetables. The tomatoes, garlic and chillies should be charred in the fire first.

They’re then chopped up and mixed with scallions, coriander, fish sauce, salt and lime juice.

The stomach bile was an optional ingredient but I reckon it gave my Jeow the edge.

We were also a new way to squeeze a lime, without getting the pips in your food. Cut three flaps around the edge as in the pic, squeeze each individually then fold them back up and squeeze out the centre. You can control how much you squeeze and you shouldn’t need to wash your hands afterwards. A revelation!

Whether limes usually have pips or not proved to be a controversial issue on my Facebook page. I did some research on the pip question and found that the limes typically sold in UK supermarkets are Persian or Tahiti limes and are indeed seedless. Petite Key Limes, on the other hand, contain seeds.

We also made Mok Pa, a popular dish of fish (catfish for us) marinated in herbs and steamed in banana leaves. Video here.

This time we were taught how to warm the leaf first to make it flexible.

We were also shown how to make a parcel with twine rather than toothpicks.

Also Laap, a minced meat ‘salad’ which is the Laotian national dish.

And of course sticky rice, both white and red this time, which needed washing first.

Again it was steamed in a bamboo steamer.

After our labours it was time to eat our creations.

It was thirsty work obviously.

While we were there occasional torrential rain showers would add to the atmosphere.

Once we’d eaten we went back to make dessert, Khao Gam or Purple Sticky Rice with Coconut Sauce.

Hot water was added to grated coconut which was then squeezed and discarded. This left just the white coconut flavoured water which we then used to heat up some cooked red rice.

After garnishing with fruit jam and some sesame seeds we also added some fresh fruit such as Rambutan and Long Gong.

So you really must do at least one cookery class if you can. Of the two I’d say the Tamarind class was the best organised, most educational and in the best location but Bamboo Tree were good too.

That’s all for now. Tham Keo! Cheers!

Eating out in LP next…

One thought on “Laos – Luang Prabang – cooking Laotian food”

  1. Brilliant Raif. You’ve just transported me back to Luang Prabang…..I can see it, smell it, hear it and taste it….you’re a magician! Many thanks. Cx

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