Camp Food, Laos

Earlier this spring, we followed a bomb clearance team working high in the mountains near the Lao/Vietnam border. We all camped in tents pitched inside a village schoolhouse that offered shelter from the wind, rain, cold, and critters outside. One rudimentary room with a stellar view served as the camp kitchen. Cooking took place over […]

Dinner by Chance

So it happens like this: you’re wandering the street in a country you just entered in a town where you’ve just arrived, marveling at how this place has grown in the years since you’ve last seen it. You barely recognize a thing. You come to a corner café, and you see the hair, familiar hair. […]

Cooking Lao Food for 40

Fresh, hot chiles THIS is why I love food, communal food: it has the power to turn a gathering of strangers into a collective event. It makes the foreign experience feel less so. It happens every time we travel to Laos, when villagers bring us to their kitchen fires or hand us glasses of Beerlao […]

A Celebration of Lao Food & Farming

  Farming in Laos Khao niaw, sticky rice. It’s the lifeblood of lowland Laos. The Lao phrase “to eat” specifically implies eating glutinous rice. To some, sticky rice is an integral part of national and ethnic identity. Many Laotian meals are designed around glutinous rice, which is taken with the right hand and formed into […]

Lao Jaeow Night (with Deviations)

Maybe you’ve had a night like this: You head to a friend’s with plans to cook. You bring recipes and garlic, chiles and limes, an ungodly heavy mortar and pestle—all stuffed into a pack. And when you walk through her door, you begin to unwind. Wine is poured and music played. Cheese and olives are […]

Two Summer Tastes of Laos

Lao fish with herbs, grilled in banana leaf Happy solstice! Lao food, to me, is synonymous with summer. Even if it’s not summer when you eat it, the flavors will take you to a warm, sunny day. It’s the abundance of fresh herbs, and the heat of those crisp little chiles. It’s the scent of […]

Lao Sour

En route to Boualapha recently, we stopped for a light roadside lunch of sour pickled fish (som paa) and sour pickled pork (som muu), both of which had been grilled in banana leaves. Each little packet opened to the most potent pate-like wedges (white fish, pink pork) with a firm consistency and an incredibly sour […]

Now, About that Jaeow:

If you’ve read my previous post — a 9-day diary of Lao village food — you’ll fully understand the importance of chile in every Lao meal. And you’ll recognize that chile takes the form of jaeow, a paste that’s pounded with mortar and pestle. One morning, I follow Huang and Louen, the two cooks, into […]

A Rural Lao Food Diary

Breakfast, Day 5 Last month, we spent nine days in the field with Jim Harris’s team in rural Phongsali province. We camped at the local dispensary and showered with cold river water, which was piped uphill to the village. The team hired two young women to cook, clean and launder. Our meals were served communally, […]

Lao Food News Roundup

Davone, a villager in Sophoon, shaves her homegrown cassava in Phongsali province, which is considered one of the country’s poorest and most remote. Sophoon, however, enjoys relative prosperity: most families have enough rice to sustain them through this year’s dry season. The village sits on a swiftly flowing river, which spins family generators that power […]