For those of you who have been with my blog since the beginning, you will remember how much I love to cook. Our last stop in Laos, Luang Prabang, was a haven of beautiful French and Lao cuisine and I couldn’t think of a better place to learn how to cook some Lao specialties for myself. It had been such a long time since I had the facilities to cook anything so we ducked in to Tum Tum Cheng to see what’s good. We began at 8am with a very welcome cup of tea, introductions and a quick chat with Chef Linda before hopping to the market. There were only five people in the group, Rich, me and three others. One German, one Norwegian and the rest of us representing good old England. With guidance from Chef Linda, we each chose a dish that we wanted to make and one extra for good measure. After a ten minute remorque ride, we arrived at bustling Phosy Market – the biggest market in Luang Prabang which, as we would soon find out, has a bit of absolutely everything including:
Chilis! Every colour and variety that you could ever imagine.
The banana section covered the fruit it’s self, banana blossoms for salad, banana leaves for steaming fish and serving as well as really cute little tiny bananas.
Rice, spices and hand-woven serving baskets.
Raw, boiled and cooled bamboo.
They had Mekong catfish, both live and sun-dried. The latter didn’t smell so tasty.
Small, baby and large Aubergine (egg plant).
Flowers, mushrooms, lentils, beans and other assorted goodies. The Ivy looking vines are an edible jungle plant that has no English name. I’m not too worried though, it wasn’t that nice!
Back at the restaurant we got kitted up and Linda explained loads of interesting info about Lao cuisine, culture and explained cooking methods and the ingredients. She showed us how to make edible decorations like a tomato flower and cucumber leaves. Here’s one I made earlier…. (THIS IS A LIE)…Mine wasn’t worth a picture.
We learned the difference between many different kinds of rice. Why some is sticky, why some is purple and the proper ways to cook and eat it. According to Linda, Lao people never ever get bored of eating rice for every meal…. we still don’t understand this. I get bored of rice after a week!
After a bit of practice, we went next door into the kitchen. I didn’t take any pictures (I KNOW!) because one, I was cooking and two, I felt sick. Unfortunately, I had been feeling sick for the past three days and while I was thoroughly enjoying the class, the pungent smells of various spicy jungle roots and fish sauce weren’t really doing much for the nausea. I very nearly had to walk out, however, I held on to my stomach and some delicious food was produced as a result.
When all the dishes had been prepared, we sat down to sample our work in the form of a massive lunch. We made… green papaya salad, Luang Prabang beef stew ‘aw lam’, stuffed bamboo and lemongrass, ginger fish, sweet sticky rice with mango, and kai pad phet. They were all delicious but the aw lam is definitely an acquired taste I think. Jungle roots, leaves, vines and a creamy, grey aniseed tasting sauce… not really my cup of tea but that’s ok. We were served Lao fruit wine, beer and fruit tea to wash it down. I can’t wait to cook the mango sticky rice when I get home! Any body want some? I am craving it right now! Anyway, Tum Tum Cheng is a great option for those who want an overview of Lao cuisine, want 5 star ingredients and service but only have $35 to spend. Well worth the money. Even Jamie Oliver has taken this class though when he did, Chef Linda didn’t know who he was. Apparently when she got the internet a few years ago, she googled him and was pretty embarrassed. Lucky girl!