My Vientiane blues are gone for the time being, and since everybody knows I like food, both preparing and eating it, this post is about some of the culinary delights of Laos.
Cameron told me that the only thing he knew about Laos was that they had no food taboos. Whether or not this is true, I am not certain, but as far I can tell, they eat pretty much anything and everything here.
Dr. Dan asked Mr. Chansy if the Lao eat dog, like they do in Vietnam, and Chansy responded that “We wouldn’t cook it for foreigners, like the Vietnamese do.” Today I ate some deep friend beef skin. I didn’t like it, and Chansy kept urging me to eat it, and finally I said I didn’t want any. When he asked why, I said “It tastes like how cows smell.” I don’t know if that made sense to him, but that is exactly how it tasted. I also got served some beef tripe, which I declined to eat. I have been generally good about eating anything and everything they serve me, as strange as it may be, but even I have my limits.
This is a picture of the typical Lao sandwich they sell at the Talat Sao (Morning market) where I take the bus every day. As you can see from the picture, they put some kind of furry stuff on it that tastes salty and kind of fishy. It also has cucumber and white spam in it, and comes wrapped in some kid’s homework, or some bussiness man’s report. A small one is 20 cents, a large one is 50 cents. Sometimes I have one for breakfast, sometimes when I get back from the University on my way home in the afternoon.
The Lao eat a lot of glutinous rice, or “sticky rice”. It’s so delicious. Usually it comes served in a little wicker basket, but actually I have no idea how it is prepared. One strange thing the Lao really like, which I think actually comes from Thailand, is corn in sweet things, like Corn Ice Cream, Corn Yogurt, and Corn & Coconut Custard. It sounds disgusting but actually it’s really good. They also eat a lot of green papaya salad. Most Lao cuisine is influenced heavily by Thai food, with a few small differences. The Lao put fish sauce in their papaya salad, which I am not a fan of. Regardless of whether or not you get Lao or Thai style green papaya salad, it’s HOT. Imagine just eating some hot salsa fresca straight out of the bowl with a spoon at your favorite mexican restaurant, that is what eating green papaya salad is like. Hopefully you can get it served with a nice Beerlao on the side to cool your mouth down between bites.
Around my house there is an excellent Vietnamese style restaurant (but they don’t serve dog…. at least I don’t think they do…). You can get a plate of “make your own spring rolls” for about $2. This includes huge plate of lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts, fresh sweet basil, and fresh mint. You also get some grilled pork sausage, rice noodles, and some rice paper. Then you break everything into little pieces and roll it up into the rice paper, and dip it into a sweet peanut sauce. They also have delicious bowls of rice noodles with peanuts, lime, sweet basil and mint, and of course, Beerlao.
In general, everything that’s been on my plate so far in this place has been delicious, and really cheap. The exceptions being when I have tried to eat “Western style” food, including some really stale pastries.
Ok, enough about food, here are a few pictures:
Since I’m writing about stuff going in one end, I might as well write about things coming out the other. In Laos most people don’t use toilet paper, instead there are these spray hoses next to most toilets. You use the hose to spray yourself down after you eliminate. I’m not sure exactly how effective these hoses are, but I have noticed that people generally wash their hands very thoroughly after using the toilet.
I took some pictures on campus today, here is me in front of the Central Library. It looks pretty tropical and beautiful huh? It is. This is where I work everyday. I will take more pictures soon. And eventually I will work up the courage to ask some monks if I can take a picture with them. I saw some in the library today… browsing the stacks. But I will write more about monks later.