WHAT IS “AUTHENTIC” LAO CUISINE?
Laos has been influenced and colonize deciding what is "authentic" depends a gread deal on how far back you wish to place the starting line.
From the use of mayonnaise-style sauce in a Luang Praburg salad through bagets and coffee, the colonial French influence is clear to see (this applies to Laos but not Isaan which was never colonised), but the creamy and complex sauces, hallmarks of French cuisine, are not integrated into Lao cuisine. Noodle soup, (pho), popular as breakfast or snack, clearly comes from Vietnam and even carries the same name.
The us of MSG and the introduction of stir-frying techniques have come from China, while chillies, dill and tomatoes were all introduced from other countries in the seventeenth century.
Lao cuisine varies from region to region. Some areas favour certain flavours more than others. In the south, padaek features heavily in almost every dish, while in the north it is popular but not used so intensely. Steamed rice is more popular in the north, and among the Hill Tribes, where dishes bear some of the hallmarks of Chinese cuisine, being more liquid in nature. Othen/vise, country people generally eat exclusively sticky rice.
Over the past ten years, with the growth of tourism and the opening up of Laos to the outside world, Lao food has taken on different emphases. Greater use of noodles and the introduction of sugar into the diet are noticeable features. Stir-frying is more popular and this and the greater use of coconut milk means that in towns, people eat both sticky and white rice to accompany their food.
Cooking is traditionally performed over a clay and tin brazier, with charcoal as fuel. Ovens have never been a part of the traditional Lao kitchen. Consequently many foods are grilled or barbecued, and have a pleasant smoky flavour. Steaming foods is also common, and the use of banana leaves as wrapping in both cooking methods ensures the food’s moisture content is retained.
The wok is now a common kitchen implement following the introduction of Chinese cooking techniques. A deep implement, following the introduction of Chinese cooking techniques. A deep mortar and pestle of fired clay (shaped without the flat base) is an essential item in the Lao kitchen. While food processors and blenders are common in the West, the pounding motion of the Lao utensil releases flavours in a way the processor cannot match. Wooden versions, or mortars with flat bases are better suited to grinding and can’t achieve the same effect.
Now that you have an understanding of and experience in the cuisine of Laos, we hope you will enjoy recreating your food experiences in your home. The following list of ingredients and recipes will allow you to introduce this fascinating fresh cuisine family and friends. Bon Appetit!
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