November 10, 2011

Genuine Lao food in the rainforest

We just returned from a 3-day trek in the Luang Namtha province, northwestern Laos. Despite some rain on the second day and a lot of very annoying leeches, this trek was definitely the highlight of our stay in Laos, allowing us to explore the pristine Lao jungle and spend time with the Lanten hill tribe in Nam Khoi, a tiny village so remote that one can only reach it by foot or river...

Although we had sampled some traditional Lao dishes the previous days in Luang Prabang, the fairly rough conditions of this trek made it the best possible opportunity to eat 'real' Lao food, in a similar way to how the locals would have it.

A few large banana leaves just cut from the surrounding jungle are spread out directly on the ground or on basic bamboo table-like constructions, resulting in possibly one of the most charming table runners you may ever come across. Displayed over the leaves, the meal usually consists of one 'jeow' (lao-style dip alternatively made of smoked eggplants, roasted tomatoes or edible leaves), one or two vegetable-based dishes, occasionally some eggs, fried fish or grilled buffalo meat, and of course the ever-present sticky rice, particularly convenient to transport and even keep warm for a few hours when wrapped in banana leaves itself. The composition of colours and flavours makes it a true feast for the eyes and the tastebuds, especially welcome between our very challenging hiking sessions through the rainforest.

Eggplant jeow, beans, eggs, and fried fish for our first lunch

Pumpkin leaves jeow, stir fried pumpkin and dried buffalo for our final lunch

It goes without saying that such a meal should be enjoyed with your fingers, by using a small ball of sticky rice to dip in the jeow or grab anything else - a technique which you quickly get used to when hungry, and surely contributes to the charm and authenticity of the experience.

Steaming sticky rice at our forest camp

If you plan a trip to Laos and possibly some trekking, I can only highly recommend Green Discovery - very professional at all levels.

No comments:

Post a Comment