Food, glorious Laos food

Food, glorious Laos food

Check out this wonderful post by Jill, about food and meals in Laos. Wonderfully written, and some great photography of the mouth-water delights she encountered.

Jill's Scene

There’s a small, unassuming restaurant along Kounxoau Road in Luang Prabang that’s my favourite place to eat in Laos. We discovered it one cold, wet evening after a day out and about in the rain. John had been biking. Ben and I’d been less adventorous, some might say soft by comparison. We sheltered in the Guest House until the rain eased to showers before venturing out, even so coats and brollies were required.

Rain on the Mekong, at Luang Prabang Rain on the Mekong

We all wanted something warming and homely for dinner that night and this small family run restaurant met the bill. Sadly, I don’t know it’s name. There was no sign. That large white sign to the right in the photo is for real-estate. I hope this restaurant isn’t for sale because for us it represents everything good about Lao food.

Our favourite restaurant in Luang Prabang and all of Laos. My favourite restaurant in Luang Prabang and all of Laos

The service here…

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hsa ba – burmese recipes from miki

as a bit of a fussy eater, i’ve always been wary of weird foreign foods, even burmese ones. as a burmese kid myself, it’s slightly embarrassing to be eating mashed potato in burma, because i can’t bring myself to eat something new. i do try, honest, but sometimes i just can’t. however, there are some burmese food i absolutely love, and this chicken curry  is very similar to one my mother makes, and it’s absolutely delicious! the book and website this recipe is from, hsa ba (which means ‘please eat’ in burmese) by tin cho chaw, is chock full of authentic burmese recipes that i would love to learn to make myself, and of course eat :3

here’s the recipe itself! it serves 4-6 and takes about an hour to cook.

for the spice mixture

3 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
2 tablespoons chilli powder*

for the ground paste

8-10 shallots or around 250g
3 garlic cloves
3 dried chillies, soaked in hot water
15g fresh turmeric root
15g shrimp paste, roasted**

100ml peanut oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 sprigs of curry leaves
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces or use 8 thighs
8 new potatoes, peeled and halved
1 lemongrass stalk, bruised
250ml water
270ml coconut milk
1 teaspoon palm sugar or brown sugar
salt to taste

To make the spice mixture, dry roast each spice separately (except chilli powder) in a saucepan over moderate heat, until fragrant or just beginning to smoke. Roasting spices individually means you are less likely to burn one that takes less time to roast.

Leave to cool before finely blending in a coffee or spice grinder then mix in chilli powder. I usually triple the quantity above and store leftover spice mixture in an air-tight container until the next time I cook this curry.

Using a pestle and mortar, pound the shallots, garlic, dried chillies and turmeric to a fine paste. Best to do this in small quantities so it is more manageable, then add in roasted shrimp paste. Alternatively blitz small quantities of the ground paste in a food processor.

Heat the oil in a saucepan or wok and throw in cinnamon stick, star anise and curry leaves. Stir until fragrant then add the ground paste and spice mixture. Reduce the heat and cook the paste for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Don’t skimp on the oil as the mixture will burn and become bitter.

When the oil has separated from the paste, it is time to add the chicken, potatoes and lemongrass. Stir through before adding water. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chicken is cooked through.

Add the coconut milk and simmer a further 20 minutes. Finally add the sugar and season with salt.

*look for Kashmir chilli powder, as the intense red will give the curry a great colour
**wrap shrimp paste in foil and roast in oven at 180C/350F/Gas4 for 15 mins

one and a half

i’ve always been interested in immigration and the people who choose to make a foreign country their home – probably because i’m an immigrant myself.

i came to england from burma with my mother when i was 6 months old, joining my father who had got a job here a couple months previously. he was present for my birth, then jetted off on the boeing to start his new life. i like to call myself a 1.5 generation immigrant – i wasn’t born in england, but i’m too young to remember burma (and my burmese is downright pathetic now – my parents see this as a good thing though, since we are living in england).  my parents and i are pretty well assimilated into british culture – my dad’s english is pretty perfect and my mum’s is wonky, but good enough for people to understand the gist of what she’s saying. a while ago, i found a hilarious, but extremely bittersweet blog post about being an ‘engrish’ to english translator – a mortifying experience i, and probably many other children of 1st generation immigrants have had to face. my parents have also been pretty stereotypical 1st generation asian parents too – amy chua describes them perfectly in her description ‘on generational decline’ in the (in)famous book battle hymn of the tiger mother:

“The immigrant generation (like my parents)  is the hardest working. Many will have started off in the United States [or whatever cushy first world country] almost penniless, but they will work hard until they become successful engineers, scientists, doctors,  academics, or businesspeople. As parents, they will be extremely strict and rabidly thrifty. (“Don’t throw out those leftovers! Why are you using so much dishwasher liquid? You don’t need a beauty salon – I can cut your hair even nicer.”) They will invest in real estate. They will not drink much. Everything they do and earn will go toward their children’s education and future.”

in comparison, the second generation (i include myself in this – 1.5 does round to 2) is described as floating on the success of their parents, also working hard, but probably not as hard, as them. they simply don’t have to. and their children after that is the one chua “lies awake worrying about” – the third generation is born into the wealth of the upper middle class and knows that their rich parents can provide everything they need and want without having to work for it. a study somewhere shows that third generation asian-americans score about the same as their white counterparts in maths tests, despite the stereotype that all asians are amazing at maths. scary.

for some reason, as soon as i started secondary school i managed to find myself in a friendship group full of mixed-race, immigrant kids. we’re all smart girls, with perfect english, and quite a few of us have scholarships. but if the bnp or any other scary far-right political party takes over the uk, then 7 out of the 8 of us would probably be deported. the latest immigrant is blanche, a perky half-german, half-english gal, with a bit of french in her as well,  who speaks perfect german and perfect accented (it’s not a german accent, but not an english one either – a lot of people think she’s american) english as well. she moved to the uk with her mum and older brother when she was 5 years old.

any of you guys in the covey immigrants, or mixed-race? do you have any interesting experiences of culture shock to share? i would love to know ^^

~miki ♥