One of the reasons I reduced my blogging schedule to one post per week was an impending business trip to Bangkok and Laos. Now that it’s safely behind me, it would be tragic if I didn’t share at least a few pictures! I went by myself, so I’m thinking of that old saying that goes something like, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, did it make a sound?” Or in this case, if I travel to Laos alone and don’t share the evidence on my blog, did I even go?
Well, comrades, I am here now to say that BOY HOWDY did I go.
(Sure was a bitch getting that elephant through customs, let me tell ya.)
The trip was amazing and I encountered many things (both edible and otherwise) I’d never seen before.
(Buddhist monk editing photos)
These, for example, are in fact NOT Lao crunk cups, contrary to my first guess…
They are items used in Buddhist ceremony. But Laos sure is a great place to buy silver and gold!
And textiles. Ah, the silk is like buttah…
And these little guys are in fact NOT peas:
(It’s less obvious when you find them floating in your Lao stew, take my word for it.) They’re pea eggplants!
Me: “Sorry, Chef, did you say those are eggplants?”
Chef: “Yes, they’re pea eggplants.”
Me: “Oh lover, where have you been all my life?”
That last bit was directed at the eggplant, not the chef, I swear. Maybe.
I did get to see all manner of eggplant on my tour, though. For a girl whose favorite raw ingredients are eggplant and coconut, I was in the right place.
Seriously, the eggplant gods have been holding out on me. And here I was thinking the best I could do were the the usual gigantic fleshy kind we have here in the States. Maybe some of the nice skinny Japanese kind if I’m lucky.
But no, finer things await me.
One of my favorite lunches of the whole trip was a dish of stewed eggplant (both the pea and purple varieties), green beans, Luang Prabang mushrooms, fish from the Mekong River and some greens I couldn’t identify.
It’s hard to describe it other than to say that everything was super fresh and light—Lao cooking emphasizes fresh ingredients, leafy herbs and lightness. After all, if a dish was dripping with oil, how could you eat with your hands with only this for help?
That, friends, is the ubiquitous Lao sticky rice. It’s more common to get the white kind for a typical meal (purple is more expensive), but both colors behave the same way: STICKY! To eat Lao food, one makes a small ball of rice (think ping-pong ball size) and uses it to dip and pick up bites of the main dishes, such as my eggplant above. To be honest, I played the tourist card and used a fork and spoon, but did give the rice trick a try on a few other occasions. It works better than you might think!
Needless to say, I ate very, very well in Laos. I enjoyed the lightness of the traditional food as well as the influence of French cuisine.
Maybe you’re wondering what it is I do that takes me to places where I ride elephants and delve into local cuisine. Well, I’m inclined to keep my professional life more private than public, but let’s just say that if I’m sent overseas, I’m there precisely to do things like ride elephants and eat at a variety of restaurants.
Working in the travel industry is hardly a nonstop vacation, but on the rare occasions that I do travel on business myself, I’m not ashamed to admit that this
is just another day at the office.