21 July 2010
Day 14 – Savannakhet to Khammuan province
Today is a big day for us. This we’ll be meeting a lady the makes a very famous fish Kao Peak. Then we’ll go across the street to a Lao-Vietnamese breakfast shop to get a steamed meatball and fried egg recipe. At 10am we have a cooking session with the local radio DJ/Chef/ Hip Hop clothes shop owner , who will cook for us a dish named ‘Ancient Fish’ which is supposed to be the best fish dish ever, then at 11:30 we are going to Savannakhet’s most famous Lao sausage shop.
The Fish Kao Peak was the best yet. It is still made with pork broth and the same noodles (that’s why the name) but they also cook fish balls in the broth and add some tender chunks of Mekong river fish. It is simply to die for.
The whole team just loved it and we soaked the soup up with Chinese donuts, which were perfect.
I am so thankful that we were able get this recipe because it absolutely has to go in the book, but I think it should also go onto to our new menu at Makphet which we are planning to change by the end of this year after requests from some of our regular costumers. Importantly, adding new dishes to the menu also improves the training for our students.
We just love to watch the students Cheng and Yearh write everything down, exchanging thoughts with each other and they are actually writing their own daily journal as well. I do hope they will be willing to share their thoughts with us.
Again the young lady that sells this soup was more then happy to share it with us, so we hope we can get more people to come and eat in her shop by publishing it in our book. We are planning to write a story on every recipe that we collected from the lovely people and include it in the book.
We were already are full of soup and are now going to taste the steamed Vietnamese meatballs with the fried egg which is served with French bread on the side. This dish was delicious but I don’t think it will not make into the book since you can find it many other countries which have Vietnamese communities. Maybe we will do one day Vietnamese cook book?
I was hoping that the dish would have some Lao character added but that was not the case.
Then we met our DJ/cook and he cooked us this real nice whole fish with crispy lemongrass, cashew nuts, peanuts and many other spices and topped with his very own tamarind sauce. The dish looked great and tasted excellent but we all agreed that is not really a Lao dish but Ku Nom, the cook/DJ, is such a character that I think it is really worth telling the story and to for sure put it on our specials board. You can see from the photos, it was just so cool. Our whole team really loved the dish.
So by we’d now already had three meals and it was only 11am. I could barely move.
We arrived at the sausage shop named Pha Moan and it is know all over the area for selling the best sausages. Just walking in the front gate (which is still outside) the smell was for me unbearable. The Lao team was already at the sales counter bargaining the price for the kilos of sausages they wanted to buy.
Ghislain went inside to take some pictures on how they clean the sausage casing, which are the cleaned intestines of the pig. I wanted to have a look, so I took a deep breath and said a quick hello to lovely lady doing the job and she was very kind to explain me in Lao how she was doing it. The smell was one of my top ten worst smells yet. We have pictures, but that will not do it justice.
Then finally after that we went on our way to Khammuan province in central Laos to the Ban Na Hin village to get some more local dishes, and to visit the Tham Kong Lo caves. On the way we met Ms Nid a former staff from Peuan Mit, who gave us great advice for this area. The drive up to Ban Na Hin was just incredible. There are enormous limestone formations and mountains, and the lush green rice paddies in front are just magical.
Nid organized for us to stay in these very reasonably priced wooden bungalows where all you could see was the river, lush green meadows and mountains. You could even hear the bells from the cows eating grass at the edge of the river. They were the healthiest, fattest cows I have seen.
We met the cook and owner of the small resort and it was organized that we would start the cooking session at 6 am. Lucky us!
I went to bed and I was really exhausted but I did not want to sleep because the silence and sounds of nature were intoxicating and I did not want it to end. I know it sounds trashy but I don’t have any other words for it.
This area is still not that well known with tourists so please go and see this little Shangri La but treat it with the respect it deserves. It is truly special.