Laocook Aged Beef

Beef

I don’t know what to call this small dish. Is it a Sushi Roll or is it a Fresh Spring Roll?

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It contains seasoned sushi rice and tuna as well as lettuce and rocket leaves and blanched crunchy asparagus which is all wrapped up in a sheet of damp rice paper.

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Lao Salad

Classes and Charity

I cannot believe that we have almost reached the end of May! Wow, how time flies! Almost half the year gone already!

During the spring, the team and I have been busy in the kitchen preparing food for gala dinners, weddings and other big events. There is never a dull moment!

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Many diners got the chance to sample my Nhem as an amuse bouche, I even added slices of Som Moo, just like “at home”.

Another traditional classic, Larb Gai has also been served up, this time I added quinoa to the recipe. The texture is almost rice-like and it absorbs and compliments the flavour of the chicken salad. It looks like I´ll be serving more of this pretty soon.

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Laocook Seared Beef Tongue

Happy Lao New Year 2554

Happy New Year to all the Lao people around the globe, may you be blessed with happiness and health!

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In the kitchen this week I have been continuing my experiments with nut cheese, Cashew Nut Cheese to be precise.

Earlier in the week a small packet arrived and in this package was some Probiotics that I purchased online. Probiotics are basically friendly bacteria found in the body. I am not taking these supplements for any health reasons, I bought them to ferment my cashew cheese.

Though my previous and basic recipes for this cheese tasted good, adding the probiotics took it to another level. Its hard to describe the improvement, its like playing for years on a Playstation 2 then discovering the Playstation 3! :biggrin:

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Cashew Cheese Parsley

Smile and Say Cheese

Three Cheeses walked in to a crowded bar. The bar went silent.

“Why has everyone gone quiet?”, asked the new barman.

The manager called him over and whispered in his ear, “Everyone knows the Cheeses, don’t mess with them, they´re NUTS!“…. :lol:

Okay, okay, its a bad joke, but I couldn’t think of another way to start this post, and when I came up with the punchline, I had a few laughs myself…

Cheese. Made from nuts. Nut Cheese. They´re NUTS! (lol again).

Ok, seriously though, they are made from Cashew Nuts.

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King Burger (12)

King Burger

The absence of updates can be attributed to “not much happening in the kitchens“…

Over the past month (and up until the end of February) we have been catering to groups of international journalist that are at the hotel to attend a launch of a new car by a large motor company. Everyday different journalist arrive for the presentation, to test drive the cars, take photos and make films. Every night dinner is served in the restaurant, every night the food is the same. Its an easy month or so for the cooks!

However culinary mundane it appears, I take great pride that some Laotian dishes are being served day in and day out. The international reporters get to feast upon Larb Gai, Nham Dok, a very spicy Pad Kemou, and a whole host of other Asian treats.

January also saw the time when the Spanish give out their festive presents. On the morning of the 6th, wide eyed children wake to see what The Three Kings have left them. The Three Kings are more famous than Santa, who may leave them a small gesture on the 25th of December, but its the 6th of January that is the most important day for the children….. and adults!

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2011, Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! to everyone!.

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It seems like December 2010 just flew past! During the past month I had been busy with the annual Christmas and New Year program at the hotel. The culinary program started on the 24th and finished on the evening of the 1st January 2011. Everyday in one of the five restaurants at the resort, some culinary theme was being offered for the hotel guests.

On Christmas Eve a wonderful dinner was available and on the evening of the 31st, a Black Tie Gala Dinner ushered in the New Year. On the first day of 2011 we offered an extended Gourmet Brunch featuring a Carvery, Sushi Bar, Lobster Paella and a huge Seafood Buffet with Lobster, King Crabs, Spider Crabs, Langoustines etc etc… (Great fun was had preparing the buffet and “Quality Control Tasting” the Crustaceans, in fact, I “tested” an obscene amount of Lobster!!)

Now its time for a little rest before it gets busy again next week……

I also had some time to serve up some Duck and Foie Gras Gyozas, which I enjoy making from scratch. The meat used is from the breast, cooked Sous Vide before being chopped up and mixed with some Ceps. This mixture is then wrapped around a cube of Foie Gras then encased in the wrappers.

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Windows

Its been a while since my last update, since then I have enjoyed some holiday time that was spent fishing (or feeding the fish, depends on which way you look at it!), and visiting friends and family in London.

Whilst I have been “chillin´”, there have been some works in the restaurant dining room and kitchen.

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On Your Bike!

In February 2011, a friend of mine will be taking a cycling challenge to raise money for people with Cerebral Palsy.

Tim Driver will cycle through Laos to Cambodia, more than 700km in just over a week for UK based charity Scope.

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Tim says about the adventure, “The challenge will involve covering 702km (436 mile) in 8 days.  That’s a scary 54 miles a day.  In humid heat.  But it’ll be fun, it’ll be a challenge, and most importantly it’ll raise a good chunk of money for Scope’s work with disabled adults, children and their families.  I hope you’ll help me in reaching my fundraising target.

The money raised from my cycle challenge will allow Scope to continue running their vital services which are designed to support disabled people in every aspect of their lives from birth through to adulthood.

If you would like to show your support for Tim and this important cause please click here.

Good luck to Tim on behalf of the whole Laocook Team! :biggrin:

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Food from Northern Laos: The Boat Landing Cookbook

I have a great appetite for reading and have a huge library of cookbooks, the books occupy a whole room in my house. I have books relating to Thai, Indian, French, Spanish, British, Modern, Traditional, Sous Vide, Pâtés, Japanese, Canapés, Desserts, Tapas, Sweets, Breads, Baking, Snacks etc.. etc.. You name it, I probably have it. :biggrin:

One corner of this repository houses my tiny section on Lao Cuisine.

Neatly arranged on the shelf are Phia Sing´s Traditional Recipes of Laos, which was put together by the late great “foodie” and former British Ambassador to Laos, Mr. Alan Davidson from Royal Lao Chef Phia Sing´s notes.

Mr. Davidson was also responsible for the book, Fish and Fish Dishes of Laos. Not only has he catalogued the various fish species that are found in the region, he also includes recipes. Both these books (and the impressive Oxford Companion to Food) are illustrated by Lao artist and family friend Mr. Soun Vannithone. Though Mr. Davisdon has many food related books published, you can clearly see his love for his adopted country.

Daovone Xayavong´s Taste of Laos: Lao/Thai Recipes from Dara Restaurant showcases food from her restaurant in Berkeley, California.

From the East Coast, Penn Honthong´s Simple Laotian Cooking includes more than 170 recipes.

Though not strictly a cookbook, Natacha Du Pont de Bie´s Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos includes some recipes from her very interesting travels through Laos.

There should be more books dedicated to the culinary delights of our country, it would be sad not to have more written down on paper, especially in this high tech world where everything is available via a search engine.

All of the above books are a good resource for recipes, however my latest addition really stands out amongst the crowd.

Food from Northern Laos: The Boat Landing Cookbook by Dorothy Culloty and Kees Sprengers is a real eye-opener. You could be mistaken by thinking its another restaurant cookbook, however Dorothy has put (via pen to paper) together a wonderful collection of recipes from this region of Laos.

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Mr. Davidson writes in his Oxford Companion to Food that there are more than 56 different ethnic tribes in Laos, and Dorothy explains that there are an amazing 29 of these ethnic groups in the Luang Namtha province.

The Boat Landing is Luang Namtha´s Ecotourism Lodge, Guest House and Restaurant. Their menu boasts a collection of traditional regional cooking.

To learn from a Lao cook usually means to stand buy their side whilst they cook, and try to work out how much of a certain ingredient was added. Dorothy actually observed the cooking at the restaurant and nearby villages before replicating it in her kitchen and transcribing the amounts in to Western measurements, before retesting the recipes again. That alone is a huge amount of work!

Like any good host, Dorothy introduces us to the cooks, staff and people of the Boat Landing. Then she presents us to the rural areas and terrains including the ethnic inhabitants. All this absorbing information is highlighted with some wonderful photographs taken by her husband, Kees Sprengers.

Kees has managed to capture wonderful shots of different people in ethnic dress and their homelands whislt his wife explains to us their religion, eating habits and customs. You really get a feel for the culture before turning the pages and getting to the culinary chapters.

There are a few pages dedicated to the components of a typical Lao meal and how the meal is eaten, as well as some “dos and dont´s”, which can be very helpful for those who have never been invited to a Lao meal before.

Before we get to the recipes we arrive to my favourite part of the book. The illustrated ingredients.

One great thing about the book is that the author has taken the time to write the ingredients in English and Lao followed by the pronunciation of the Lao text in to English, or what is would sound like. This is really helpful to me as I  sometimes find some ingredient names (or translations to be exact) confusing, especially the diverse herbs and spices.

Examples include:

  • Banana Flower: mak bpee
  • Lao Basil: pak i tou
  • Coriander: pak hom pom
  • Cucumber: mak taeng
  • Lemongrass: houa sikai

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This is great for those wanting to know the names of ingredients and will definitely come in handy for me next time I go to the Morning Market in Vientiane!

There are colour photographs of most of the ingredients as well as a description. One of the most interesting ingredients detailed is Fermented Fish Sauce: padek.

Padek we all know and love, but how many of us have made it as opposed to buying it? No problem, Dorothy includes not one, but two recipes for padek!

Preseeding the recipes is a section about the traditional kitchen as well as preparation techniques.

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The techniques that are illustrated are used all over the world by the older Lao abroad, however I had never thought about showing somebody how to “slice handheld vegetables and herbs: soi” in the manner that we do, or perhaps the way we cut our limes!

There are also sections on cooking techniques that are employed in our cuisine. e.g.

  • Roasting in embers, grilling: jee
  • Steaming: neung
  • Frying: koua
  • Parboiling, blanching: luak

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The book continues with some common names and description of Lao dishes. e.g.

  • Lao dipping sauce: jeow
  • Spicy meat or fish salad: lahp (which actually sounds better than the way I spell it “larb”)
  • Parboiled salad: soop

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The recipes are dived in to sections and feature various dishes and description and include variations and substitute ingredients, below is a short summary of some of the recipes available:

  • Noodle dishes: aharn bhaphet fer
    • Kao soi with parboiled vegetables: kao soi gap pak luak
    • Home style Vietnamese Pho: fer
  • Lao dipping sauces: jeow
    • Tomato and Vietnamese balm: jeow mak len sai pak ki orn
    • Sawtooth herb: jeow pak hawm pan
    • Crab paste: jeow nam bpoo
    • Giant water beetle: jeow maengda

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  • Stews and soups: soop, or/aw, gaeng
    • Bamboo shoot with pork: gaeng nor mai sai sin moo
    • Pickled bamboo shoots: gaeng nor mai som sai bpet
    • Puréed fish: poon bpaa nin
  • Stir fried dishes: bpaphet khoua
    • Fiddlehead fern: koua pak goot
    • Cucumber, duck and oyster sauce: koua mak taeng sai pet leh nam man hoi
  • Stuffed, steamed, grilled & fried dishes: bpaphet oua neung ping jeun
    • Stuffed bamboo shoots: oua naw hoke
    • Fish moke: moke bpaa
    • Crispy fish with garlic: jeun bpaa sai pak tiam
  • Salads, yams and light dishes: bpaphet yam, soop pak, tam som
    • Rice noodles with spicy broth: kao poon
    • Lao papaya salad: tam mak hoong
  • Lahp and sa dishes: bpaphet lahp leur sa
    • Spicy fish salad: lahp bpaa pak gap
    • Spicy pork salad, Muang Sing style: sa low sin moo
  • Rice dishes: bpaphet kao
    • Sticky rice: kao niao
    • Luang Prabang fried rice: kao koua Luang Phabang sai jeow bong

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These are only a handful of the recipes in the book.

Thereafter follows a short section on desserts and drinks that are commonly found, followed by the indexes in Lao and English.

It is so very clear that this project has been a labour of love for the authors and as a cook and Lao person, I can only thank them for putting in so much effort to record this wonderful cuisine.

The recipes are clearly laid out and easy to follow, and the glossary of ingredients is very interesting to say the least.

For anyone who is remotely interested in Lao food and culture, I recommend that you too should have this on your bookshelf.

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