Posts tagged ‘vientiane’

Friday, April 27, 2012

green mangos and jaeow

It’s an addiction I can’t seem to kick since I’ve been back from my trip. When you have tons of mangos all around you and you just can’t wait for them to get ripe and sweet, what do ya do? you pick them green and eat them tart and whip up a dip (jaeow) that’s sweet, savory and spicy.

Not just mangos too, anything tart really. Growing up in Canada we adapted this snack to what was around, tart crab apples worked as did firm granny smith apples. This recent trip far east and there was no need to make do, the real deal and I’d snack on green mangos all day long, everyday. The Keo mango variety hands down my favorite

and tart gooseberries fresh off the tree works too.

Sweet Savory Spicy Jaeow (Dip)

1 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce

2 Tbsp coconut sugar (coconut or palm sugar is ideal, any kind of sugar will work though)

1 tsp ba daek (an anchovy based sauce, if you don’t have this sauce just replace it with fish sauce)

1 tsp roasted Thai chili flakes (optional, more or less depending on how spicy you’d like it)

2 tsp roasted rice powder

1 large shallot (thinly sliced)

a few fresh thinly sliced Thai bird’s eye chilis (optional, more or less depending on how spicy you’d like it)

1. Mix everything together, the sugar should dissolve some.

Back home and I’m making do, I found a firm, not nearly ripe mango at the market, it’s still too on the yellow side but at least it’s firm, they really should be green and firm for this snack. Peel the skin off of the mango, slice it up any which way, dip each piece into the dip as you would do with carrot sticks and ranch dressing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

roasted young coconuts

It’s been around forever, too bad it’s not so common in this part of the world. Roasted young coconuts, next level coconut water and if you get the chance, try it.

The green skins get cut off and they’re thrown in a fire, they come out looking like this.

Then the coconuts are put in a huge pot of simmering water over a hot fire for about 20-30 minutes. Once removed from the water the thick husks then get roughly chopped off, they get sanded smooth and now they’re ready to be sold at market.

Knife skills are important, crack ’em open

and get hydrated. Watching the process first hand, all the labor involved and they’re definitely worth every penny and then some, so tasty.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vientiane, Laos

Home James! Yes, I made it back from so far away. Air travel period, especially to the other side of the world with this giant metal tube carrying hundreds of passengers and all our luggage, pretty much “a chair in the sky” and how amazing it is these things can fly, for real? no joke.

I’ll miss the long hot lazy days along the Mekong River

and temple bells ringing at 6am, our household’s early morning temple runs and the community shares offerings with the monks daily

Seeing family is always nice, so many kindred spirits and history from way back and my agenda for 2 weeks? nothing pressing. Breakfast every morning with my dear aunt and uncle

Our favorite breakfast, Vietnamese rice crepes with freshly baked baguettes and coconut water from the coconuts in the front yard.

and my dad in charge of drinks, skillfully pulling down each coconut for us

my favorite part’s the center, the creamy and soft flesh of fresh young coconuts is very tasty.

I managed to eat every amazing dish and fresh fruit in season too, sweet mangosteens and rambutans

and jackfruit from my uncle Koe and aunt Li’s yard

fetching for mangos too in front of Cafe Yen Yen, our favorite neighborhood spot and cheremoyas (apple custard)

A short trip to the heart of the city

and this fancy hotel will pick you up in their old British taxi cab if you please

fresh produce everywhere

and fresh rice noodles too

for all those amazing rice noodle soups; a Lao take on nose to tail rice noodle soup is a favorite and with Vietnam as a neighbor, classic pho is a staple too.

and a twist on everyone’s favorite, green papaya salad but this one’s more like “the kitchen sink salad.” Done up exactly the same way as green papaya salad just without the papaya and instead you name it? noodles, macaroni, cabbage, squid, etc. spicy and savory with fresh lime, it all works even the new dude in town gives it a thumbs up, Vientiane’s latest and greatest statue of a highly respected general from way back.

Shabu shabu Lao style (sukiyaki/seen joum) is always good, cooking seafood or thinly sliced sirloin along with all sorts of fresh green leafy vegetables in a steaming broth with a dash of fresh coconut water and onions with all kinds of amazing dips (jaeow) is hard to refuse. And grilling shrimp or fish or thinly sliced steak, etc. (dahd seen) and then wrapping it all up in lettuce and fresh herbs with dips always satisfies too.

And bakers mastering their craft over there as well, freshly baked baguettes for pate sandwiches (more famously known as banh mi) and light and fluffy, creamy birthday cakes

Of course some Beer Lao with every meal, hands down my favorite beer in the world, made with fresh spring water and it goes down smooth. It’s kinda hard to find outside of Laos, I’ve been told though Belgium’s Stella Artoise beer comes close.

I was also a frequent diner at the neighborhood duck restaurant owned by our friend, Tak. Equipped with a bag of charcoal and a spray bottle of water well-seasoned ducks are grilled all day, every day over a carefully monitored flame and temperature. One of my favorite meals is larb duck, a traditional Lao minced duck salad tossed with fresh herbs and spices, a squeeze of fresh lime and a steaming hot bowl of simple duck broth soup with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and cherry tomatoes, eaten with sticky rice, it’s so good.

Traditional body massages were a part of our daily drill too

and some quality time spent with my cousins at our local neighborhood sauna. This old photo of the 2 sisters when they were kids captures them perfectly, always long chats and laughter for days

while we steamed away in the wet sauna heavily scented with fresh kaffir limes, so refreshing while we scrubbed our bodies with a paste made of tamarind and water, nature’s own exfolliant, easy. Headed home afterwards and the oldest of the two sisters makes the best bamboo shoots and mushroom soup (gaeng nor mai) in town, let’s call it a day!

Friday, March 23, 2012

fake problems

Mad men or tropical weather? Funny that that’s the conundrum I’m dealt with this week and yes, I’ve been heard harping once or twice about the fact that I won’t be home to watch the season premiere this Sunday, two weeks overseas and who’d ever think a trip abroad to tropical weather and great food would have any drawbacks. Anyways, the recording’s been set for Sunday and given that we’ve been kept waiting for so long already, what’s another 2 weeks really? You can bet though that I’ll be sipping on an Old-Fashioned at a local bar or restaurant in Vientiane just like Catherine Deneuve did in sweaty Saigon in Indochine, channel the ladies of Mad Men and wear my velvet printed heels that feel so dressed up and polished and wonder what went down.

Just getting there is the goal now, 17 hours on a direct flight and then a 1 hour flight to my destination, wowzers it’s gonna be a long one! bon voyage! hopefully some dispatches from the other side of the world too.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

a concrete countertop and on the other side of the ocean

Another year under our belt and despite my new kitchen not installed yet, no grand dinners at home cause of it, we still managed to have a relaxing holiday with lots of good food and drinks while we worked on the house with pandora radio keeping our ears happy. If you don’t know, it’s a personalized internet radio service site that’s free and it usually gets it right with its suggestions, sometimes it f***s with me though and thinks I must be a jazz fan, that and some random nobody metal band, really? An immediate thumbs down on those selections. Overall pandora’s a great service for music fans (free too) while we work on the house. The guys this week started building a concrete countertop for the downstairs bathroom vanity, hope it works.

This holiday I also caught up on frivolous stuff too like watching the entire season of PBS’s Downton Abbey and Showtime’s The Tudors. I’m a sucker for period dramas and stories, the costumes, the accents, the politics of the day, it always manages to be an all encompassing escape for me from my everyday. It reminds me of the last time I met up with my parents in Laos, it sort of became a long history lesson via film for me as well. Because of how hot it can get during the day it’s normally an early rise and shine for everyone, all our errands and visiting at my family’s textile shop is done first thing in the morning and usually back at home by noon, safe from the blazing afternoon heat. My afternoons then would be spent watching random dvds I’d find over there, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. No theaters around and it’s the only way you get to watch any kind of foreign movie so I’d stock up on all the older period flicks, my history lesson for the day while waiting for the sun to cool down. In a remote city in South East Asia and yet at the same time I’m swept away in the stories of the English countryside, completely opposite ends of the spectrum and just like that though it happens. So yeah, it sucks that my family’s far away and if only the other side of the world was just a short trip away, how nice that’d be, hopefully soon I’ll see everyone again.

Early morning traffic in Vientiane, Laos

Make way for the tuk tuks too.

My cousin, Mali rummaging through all the handwoven silk.

Getting groceries for the day. Vendors selling their fresh produce, farmers markets all along the street everyday all day, supermarkets don’t exist here.

No lack of amazing street food too.

The original Emerald Buddha Temple is in Vientiane. Humble temple grounds, it’s a quiet retreat right in the middle of the city that’s still standing after so many battles and wars, so much history here.

Our mode of transportation in the ‘hood with my mom.

And every night we get pretty sunsets along the Mekong River right behind our house.