Bamboo shoot stew with pork ແກງ ໜໍ່ໄມ້ ໃສ່ຊີ້ນໝູ gaeng naw mai sai sin moo

This is one of three recipes for gaeng naw mai from the cookbook “Food from Northern Laos”. It uses fresh bamboo shoots and yanang juice. The recipe was recorded in ant egg season (April – May), so ant eggs and acacia fronds were added. The recipe is perfectly fine without the ant eggs, and you can add a mix of beans, mak buab (or zuchini), squash tendrils, Lao basil and sawtooth herb (or coriander) cut in  5 cm pieces instead of the acacia fronds or leave the greens out entirely.  Up to you!

N.B. One of the other recipes, gaeng naw mai som uses pickled bamboo shoots and the other, gaeng naw mai sai padek uses a piece of fermented fish from the padek pot as well as your choice of meat.

Serves four to six.


500 g – 1 kg  (1 – 2 lb)  fleshy pork bones chopped into small pieces (3 cm [1 in])
1 – 2 large handfuls yanang leaves to taste (or half a tin or more of yanang extract)
Water for soaking yanang leaves
3 T oil
5 cloves garlic
1 small white or red onion, chopped into thumb-size pieces or several shallots
5 T padek, boiled for 5 minutes to sterilize (or less to taste, or add some fish sauce at the end)
10 – 12 long reddish chillies
1 thick bamboo shoot, pre-cooked, finely sliced lengthwise and blanched (or about 2 cups tinned bamboo shoots)
2 C oyster mushrooms
2⁄3 C cloud ear mushrooms
1 bunch acacia fronds (pak la) (or your choice of greens)
1 C red ant eggs (optional)


  1. Put yanang leaves into water and soak. Rub, squeeze and collect the liquid (or use tinned yanang extract).
  2. In a large frying pan or wok, add the oil. When hot, add the garlic, stir briefly and then add the onion. When the onion is transparent, add the pork pieces, frying until sealed and succulent looking (about 5 minutes).
  3. Put the yanang juice in a large pot along with the padek and chillies. If using yanang extract, add sufficient water to create a soupy stew. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pork and simmer for 5 more minutes. Stir in the bamboo shoots and simmer a further 5 minutes. Lower heat if needed and add the oyster mushrooms. Stir to mix gently.
  4. Line up the fronds, so they face the same direction. Curl them on top of the stew; do not mix in. Leave to simmer for a few minutes, and then slip in the red ant eggs and cloud ear mushrooms trying not to disturb the fronds. Simmer for a few minutes more. Take off the heat and serve with steamed sticky or plain rice.

Kmhmu fish dishes (Khmu)

Food preparation by the men
Food preparation by Ban Chalensouk men

This article describes various Khmu fish dishes prepared by the men of Ban Chalensouk the morning after the party.
The farmed fish used are small tilapia – a sweet tasting freshwater fish much used in Laos and bought from the market that morning.

Three dishes were prepared and served with sticky rice – grilled fish flavoured with local herbs and chilli, a sour fish soup and a stew of spicy fish innards. The only thing not used from the fish were the scales. One bowl of fish thus served 20 plus people generously.

Fish for lunch
Tilapia - enough for 3 Kmhmu dishes

The fish were first of all scaled and gutted. The quantity was divided in two, one half to be grilled and the other half to be made into a soup. The guts were set aside for the stew.

Seasoning fish for grilling
Seasoning fish with pounded herbs for grilling

The fish to be grilled were plastered on one side with a pounded mixture of lemongrass, green chillies, galangal, lemon (hairy) basil (pak i tou Lao) and finely chopped spring onion. Salt and msg were added. After seasoning, each fish was folded crossways to enclose the filling and secured between two pieces of split bamboo (mai heep neep) ready for traditional grilling over the open wood fire.

Fish ready for grilling
Fish secured in mai heep neep ready for grilling
Fish grilling over embers
Fish grilling over embers, Kmhmu-style

The second portion of the fish was made into a mild sour fish soup (gaeng som pa) which had lemon grass, a few green chillies, onions, tomato, salt and msg added.

Sour fish soup
Sour fish soup and grilled fish Kmhmu-style (eyes included)
Preparing innard stew
Adding pak i tou Lao to stew

The guts were made into a stew flavoured with pak i tou Lao (bai manglaek (Thai),  lemon or hairy basil), chopped galangal, garlic, chillies, spring onions and fresh mak ken (a local version of Sechuan pepper).

Herbs all added and mixed together
Herbs all added and mixed together

Small cubes of coagulated pork blood were  added later.

fish dishes
Grilled fish, innards stew and sour fish soup

In all three dishes, msg and salt were the flavour-enhancers rather than fish sauce and Knorr stock powder, which are more recent influences. The food was delicious – the best grilled fish I’ve tasted!

Fish lunch in Ban Chalensouk
Fish lunch in Ban Chalensouk

Pork and bamboo shoot soup and other feast food at Ban Chalensouk

The next few posts will be about the party in Ban Chalensouk, a Kmhmu (khmu, kamu, khamu) village about 20 km south of Luang Namtha township in Northern Laos on Route 3 to Bokeo. This is Khamsouk’s village and she was organising a big celebration after returning from her successful Vientiane studies. In part, it was held to honour us as her study sponsors, but also I think, to make a statement to others that Khamsouk was returning to her village well educated and grown up – the first university graduate of village with her own local shop and a baby on the way. It was a two pig celebration (having encouraged her to spare the cow). I have a soft spot for cows, coming originally from a New Zealand dairy farm. (I didn’t know until my 20’s that the beef we ate could be female as well as male – I’d always thought after a life of giving milk, cull cows were sold for pet food – duh!).

We arrived by motorbike around 9 am, and the bamboo shoot and pork soup was already bubbling away. The bamboo shoots were from the forest and the pigs – well, they had been dispatched early in the morning and were sliced and diced well before we arrived. For details of this process, at an earlier celebration a few years before in the same village, visit Kees’ website in PBase.

Here is the outdoor kitchen, with the soup brewing:

Pork and bamboo soup cooking
Pork and bamboo soup cooking on wood fires

And inspecting the soup:

Pork and bamboo shoot soup
Pork and bamboo shoot soup

Upstairs, which is usually the village official meeting place, the other dishes were being assembled by the women:

Preparing soop pak and lahp for 60+ people
Preparing soop pak and sa (a Northern-style lahp) for 60+ people

For the soop pak (steamed vegetable salad with galangal and sesame seeds), freshly picked and steamed vine shoots, flowers, berries, leaves and gadawm gourds (mak gadawm or mak noi) formed the main ingredients:

green vegetables for soop pak
green vegetables for soop pak

Pounded finely chopped galangal (tasting it I think that there was a fair wallop of Knorr or salt added to help the breaking down process), freshly pounded roasted chillies, msg and pounded roasted local sesame seeds were added and everything was mixed together:

Mixing soop pak while the other women make lahp
Mixing soop pak while the other women make sa
Rice noodles for lahp
Rice noodles for sa

The sa (spicy pork salad) meat had already been chopped finely and lightly fried with a bit of oil in a wok then left to cool. Rice vermicelli had  been soaked and drained and banana flowers finely shaved. The amount of shaved banana flower was roughly the same as the amount of cooked minced pork.

Pounding cooked sa meat
Pounding cooked minced pork for sa

One woman pounded the fried minced meat to a finer consistency. I’d never seen this done before. I tried it a few days ago making lahp for some visitors and it gave a lovely fine texture to it (although I like it coarse as well). Also, two handfuls of medium-sized green chillies were finely sliced. Salad herbs were prepared – a mix of finely shredded spring onions and small coriander leaves (cilantro). Now came the assembly process. First the pounded pork and banana flower were thoroughly mixed and kneaded together with the sliced chillies and some of the meat juice.

Cutting noodles into the sa
Cutting noodles into the sa

The rice vermicelli (or maybe the noodles were bean threadsit wouldn’t matter which, but bean threads wouldn’t break up as much) was cut into smaller pieces about 4 – 5 cm long (2″) and lightly mixed in. No pounded roasted rice or lime juice was added, but salt and msg were. The herbs were added last of all and everything lightly mixed together, then served up  garnished with more herbs on small plates at the table.

Mixing the lahp
Mixing the sa

Here is our breakfast, with the soop pak and sa made from the feast ingredients. A soup (gaeng) is also added and the banana leaves contain freshly steamed sticky rice, grown locally.

Breakfast, the one after breakfast and before lunch
Breakfast, the one after breakfast and before lunch! gaeng gai (chicken soup), soop pak (steamed vegetable salad), sa moo (pork sa) and khao niao (sticky rice)

And one table of the post baci feast, before eating:

One table of feast food
One table of feast food, with (from left) soop pak, sticky rice, pork sa and bamboo shoot & pork soup.

Sour pumpkin soup with mushrooms ແກງ ໜາກອຶໃສ່ສົ້ມແລະ ເຫັດເຟືອງ gaeng mak eu leh het feuang sai som

Here’s a Lao recipe for a refreshing soup that goes well when a deep-fried dish is part of the meal. Soups (gaeng or keng) are eaten as the same time as other dishes, not served first.

Sour pumpkin soup with mushrooms
Sour pumpkin soup with mushrooms


½ small chicken, chopped into soup pieces (or thigh and wing piece)
1 l (5 C/ 2 pt)  water
2 C green pumpkin, cut into bite-size chunks (substitute any firm squash)
1 C straw mushrooms (or torn oyster mushrooms, button mushrooms)
4 chillies
3 cloves garlic
1 t salt
2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 10 cm (4 in) lengths and roughly bruised to release flavour
2 – 3 slices galangal
5 small kaffir lime leaves
3 limes, juiced
2 – 3 T fish sauce (or to taste)

To finish

3 small spring onions, washed and trimmed of old leaves
3 small coriander plants, washed and trimmed of old leaves


  1. In a medium pot, bring the water to the boil. Add the chicken pieces and return to the boil. Skim scum. Lower the heat and simmer the chicken for 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin, lemongrass, galangal and the kaffir lime leaves. Continue to simmer gently.
  2. In a mortar, pound together the chillies and the garlic. Stir into the soup. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms. Continue to simmer until the chicken is tender and the pumpkin is cooked. Add the lime juice and fish sauce. Taste and adjust flavourings, adding possibly more salt or lime juice. The predominant taste should be sour with a contrast of sweetness from the pumpkin and nuttiness from the mushrooms.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat. Chop the spring onions and coriander together and stir them into the soup. Transfer the soup to a bowl and serve.

Steamed green beans with sawtooth herb and either ginger or sesame seeds ຊຸບໝາກຖົ່ວຍາວ soop mak tua nyaow

Here’s an ethnic variation on the common Lao food, soop pak. Muang Sing villagers operating the community-based ecotourism trekking business Akha Experience taught The Boat Landing staff this recipe when they trained at the guest house in July 2005. Traditionally, this Akha salad is made with either ginger or sesame seed, but never both. Each version is delicious and great served warm or cold.

Steamed green beans with sawtooth herb
Steamed green beans with sawtooth herb

Serves two to four depending on the number of accompanying dishes.


250 g (½ lb) green beans, topped and tailed; use long, string or French beans
12 cloves garlic, roasted and peeled; cook the entire head before peeling the required cloves
1 piece ginger, thumb-size, roasted and peeled (if not using sesame seeds)
2 – 3 T sesame seeds (if not using ginger)
2 – 3 T light soy sauce
1 t salt
2 t fish sauce
2 T mint leaves, chopped
2 T sawtooth herb, chopped (or substitute coriander, see below)
2 T spring onion, white stalk and greens, finely chopped
1 T Vietnamese mint leaves, chopped
2 T small coriander plants, stalk and leaves, chopped (use only if Vietnamese mint is not available; use a larger amount if sawtooth herb isn’t available)


  1. Slice the beans diagonally or halve them. Steam the vegetable for a few minutes until lightly cooked. Remove to a mixing bowl.
  2. Dry roast the sesame seeds until golden. Remove them before completely browned. Set aside to cool.
  3. Put the peeled, roasted garlic cloves and salt in a mortar. Slice the roasted ginger if using. Add to the mortar. Pound the ingredients together until well-integrated. Tip this mixture over the beans.
  4. Add the soy and fish sauce and gently mix into the salad by hand. Add the chopped mint, sawtooth herb and coriander.
  5. Add the dry roasted sesame seeds if using and gently mix in by hand.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a serving dish.


  • Be a non-traditional hedonist and use both sesame seeds and ginger. The taste is great!
  • Complete your Akha experience by serving the beans with Akha pork balls, ginger chicken soup, sawtooth herb jeow and sticky rice (all in the book, Food from Northern Laos).

Sticky rice ເຂົ້າໜຽວ kao niao

Sticky rice ເຂົ້າໜຽວ kao niao
Sticky rice ເຂົ້າໜຽວ kao niao

Sticky rice is Laos’ staple food, accounting for two-thirds of its rice consumption. There are many varieties, both old, traditional seeds and new, higher yielding varieties developed to improve food security in subsistence economy villages. Some sticky rice is grown dry on steep upland slash and burn fields. Other varieties are grown in wet paddy fields. Non-mechanized rice production is very labour intensive, making every grain of rice precious. When Pawn was going on a three-month study trip to America, his chief concern was whether sticky rice was available and, if it were not, how he would survive without it. His concern mirrors that of many Lao travelling outside of their country.

Preparing sticky rice is very easy and fail safe if it is soaked long enough and if the steamer insert does not touch the boiling water below it. A most important step in preparation is to free the steam from the finished, cooked rice by prodding and flattening it with a paddle or spatula.

How to prepare sticky rice

Step 1: washing and soaking

Place the raw sticky rice in a bowl. Allow ½ – 1 cup of uncooked rice per person. Count on Asian diners eating more rice than Westerners. Briefly wash the rice to rinse away any husks or impurities. Do not over wash. Cover the rice with at least 2 cm (1 in) of water. Let it soak 6 hours.
The long soaking is essential, especially if the rice is old. Don’t try to shortcut it, or the rice will be starchy and lumpy, no matter how long it is steamed. If time is limited, the rice may be soaked in hot water for 2 hours. With any less time, however, it is impossible to cook sticky rice; substitute long grain, non-glutinous rice for the meal. To test whether the rice has been sufficiently soaked, try squashing a grain with your fingers. If it gives easily, it is ready for steaming.

Step 2: transferring the rice to a steamer

Drain off the rice water. (Try using this water later as a hair rinse. It is especially good for bringing out the gloss in long hair.)
Put water one-third up the side of the traditional, aluminium steamer pot (maw nung). A Western pot with steamer insert may be used in place of the traditional equipment. Place the pot on the heat and bring the water to the boil.

Meanwhile, tip the drained sticky rice into the traditional conical bamboo steamer (houad). Smooth the top of the rice, and then place the houad in the maw nung. If using a Western steamer pot and insert, lay a loose weave cloth in the base of the steamer insert so the rice does not fall through. Make certain that the houad’s bottom or steamer insert is not touching the water, or the rice will be soggy.

Step 3: steaming the rice

Cover the rice container with a bamboo lid or clean tea towel. Let the rice steam for 20 – 30 minutes. Ensure the water does not boil away. The cooking time depends on the rice’s age. Fresh rice takes less time. If cooking a large amount of sticky rice, half way through the steaming, flip the contents over as they lie in the steamer. Alternatively, cook the rice longer – up to 40 minutes.

Step 4: presenting and storing the rice

When the grains are soft with no ‘bone’ and when they have released a sweet, nutty taste, take the houad or steamer insert off the pot. Tip its contents onto a clean surface, cloth or banana leaf. Using a wooden paddle or spatula, flatten and spread the rice to release the steam. Let the rice rest a moment, and then turn the edges of the rice inwards to create a flattish ball. Divide the whole into smaller balls to fit inside individual sticky rice baskets if they are being used. Alternatively, serve the rice family-style, putting the entire mass on one plate for the table.

Step 5: using leftover sticky rice

  • To keep the rice warm and supple if it is to be eaten later in the day, store it in cheese cloth in a sticky rice basket. It may also be wrapped in a cloth and placed in an insulated cool bucket of similar size, a practice often used in Lao restaurants and large families.
  • Leftover sticky rice may be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge and resteamed later, briefly.
  • Cooked rice can also be shaped into thin wafers and sun dried. These pieces may then be grilled and added to stews as a thickening agent. Larger dried rice cakes, prepared the same way, may be deep-fried and used as a base for savoury or sweet toppings.

Chicken lahp with vegetables and variations ລາບໄກ່ ຜັກກັບ lahp gai pak gap

Ingredients for a Lao raw or cooked meat lahp are extremely variable reflecting a cuisine which is prepared with whatever is readily available from the forest, stream or garden. Consider this recipe an outline of fundamentals. Once you get the feel for lahp, experiment with abandon! Serves three to six depending on the number of accompanying dishes.

Lahp, Luang Namtha style
Lahp, Luang Namtha style


2 C chicken, boned, including the heart and liver, if desired, cleaned and sliced (or use pre-minced meat if pushed for time)
3 T water
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5 brown or red shallots, finely sliced
3 small red chillies (or 1 t chilli flakes)
1 stalk lemongrass; use only if very fresh and tender (optional)
1 T fish sauce or padek, liquid only
1 – 2 limes, juiced (not used in Luang Namtha lahp, but used elsewhere in Laos)
2 T ground, roasted rice powder
½ C mint leaves, small, rinsed and patted dry
1 C banana flower, finely sliced (optional); soak in acidulated or salted water until ready to use

Other ingredients such as finely shredded kaffir lime leaves, coriander, lemongrass, chopped galangal or bitter small eggplants  may be included as desired.

To finish

3 small red chillies
Mint sprigs (optional)


1 cucumber, thickly sliced; peel only if the skin is tough and bitter
Choose at least three of the following:

one large-leafed green such as lettuce, cabbage or pepper (betel) leaves,

one bitter or crisp vegetable such as apple eggplants or long beans, cut into 5 cm (2 in) lengths,

one or more herbs such as sweet basil (pak boualapha), coriander, sawtooth herb, dill, mint or whole chillies


  1. Prepare the ground, roasted rice powder.
  2. Finely mince the meat to an airy paste using a cleaver or heavy knife. This will take about 10 minutes. The goal is to aerate the meat fully by repeatedly turning the mixture onto itself and mincing until a paste is created. Cover and set aside. Chop the garlic and finely slice the shallots, three chillies and the lemongrass. Set aside.
  3. Remove the mint leaves, tearing them into small pieces if they are larger than a pinkie fingernail.
  4. Prepare all the other ingredients to be mixed with the cooked meat.
  5. Heat a wok or frying pan. Add the minced meat and sliced organs to the dry pan. Do not use any oil.
  6. Move the meat about in the pan, breaking up any lumps. Add a few tablespoons of water to prevent sticking if the meat is very lean. Keep moving the mince until the colour goes out of it. Take care not to overcook, as that will both dry the meat and diminish its flavour.
  7. Transfer the mince to a bowl to cool.
  8. Fry the garlic in 1 teaspoon of oil until slightly golden. Add to the mince.
  9. Add the padek or fish sauce and the optional lime juice. Mix together with your hands, squeezing the ingredients lightly while tumbling. Sprinkle in the sliced lemongrass, shallots and chillies and mix. Add the optional banana flower and any other ingredients being used. Combine. Add the ground, roasted rice powder. Mix, allowing the flavours to integrated juicily.
  10. Taste and adjust the lime juice, fish sauce and/or rice powder. When all is well mixed, toss in the mint, combining lightly. Transfer the lahp to a serving plate and garnish with mint sprigs. Complete by tucking three small red chillies stems or bottoms upright into the surface of the salad.
  11. Wash and trim the accompanying vegetables; slice the cucumber into thick diagonal pieces. Arrange them on a plate along with the herbs. The taste of the herbs is an important part of the lahp dining experience. Do not stint on them. Eat the herbs separately, or one or two may be included in each bite of lahp accompanied by some rice or the vegetable used for scooping the salad.
  12. Serve with sticky rice.


  • For beef lahp, use steak. For a raw lahp, use only fillet. Hand-mincing the meat will ensure airiness. The lime juice and fish sauce may need to be increased to taste. Beef lahp may be served raw – a Lao steak tartare – or cooked. If using raw meat in lahp, it is essential, of course, the meat be of fine quality from a safe source. This caution is equally important if one is offered raw lahp in a restaurant or home.
  • For pork lahp, use shoulder meat if possible. Again, by mincing the meat yourself, a fresh, airy lahp is guaranteed. Some pork skin, finely sliced and deep-fried until crisp, can be added to the lahp for additional flavour and texture.

Watercress salad, northern-style ຍຳ ຜັກສະຫຼັດ ຫຼວງພະບາງ yam pak salat Louang Phabang

Watercress salads are synonymous with Luang Prabang. There are many variations. Some are very oily; some are very sweet. The dressing here uses a reduced amount of oil. It has an excellent balance between sweet, sour and salty effects and is redolent of cooked garlic. The mashed,  cooked egg yolk enriches and thickens the dressing which contrasts brilliantly with the cress’ bitterness. This recipe is heavily influenced by Luang Prabang’s French colonial period. It is not traditional fare, but it is occasionally served at weddings and on other celebratory occasions in Luang Namtha.

Watercress salad, northern-style ຍຳ ຜັກສະຫຼັດ ຫຼວງພະບາງ yam pak salat Louang Phabang
Watercress salad, northern-style ຍຳ ຜັກສະຫຼັດ ຫຼວງພະບາງ yam pak salat Louang Phabang



1 large bunch watercress (or 1 cup Chinese or regular celery leaves or 1 cup rocket)
4 eggs, hard-boiled, whites only; reserve the yolks for the dressing
2 C mesclun using whatever greens are available
½ C coriander leaves
½ C  mint leaves
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
10 cherry tomatoes or 2 medium tomatoes


⅓ C light oil
4 T garlic, chopped
4 egg yolks, chopped
3 T sugar
2 T fish sauce
2 T soy sauce
4 T lime juice

To finish

¼ C dry-fried peanuts, chopped


  1. Heat a wok or pan and dry fry the peanuts. Set the nuts aside to cool. When cool, chop.
  2. Heat the oil on a medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and fry until golden brown, stirring frequently so it does not burn (about 2 minutes).
  3. While the garlic is frying, mix together the chopped egg yolks, sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce in a deep bowl or screw-top jar. When the garlic is ready, remove it from the heat and cool. Add the garlic and its cooking oil to the mixture. Whisk or shake to blend well.
  4. Add the lime juice and mix. Taste and adjust the sugar and lime juice.
  5. Wash the watercress thoroughly in clean water; drain and discard any thick stems. Cut cherry tomatoes in halves. If using larger tomatoes, cut into wedges about 1 cm (½ in) thick at the widest part.
  6. Assemble the salad on a large, flat plate or in a bowl by forming a bed of watercress which is topped with the other herbs and leaves, tomatoes and sliced egg whites in a nice pattern. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and sprinkle the chopped peanuts over the whole. Serve the salad immediately, as it will quickly wilt.


  • For a sweeter version, reduce the lime juice; for a sourer version, increase the lime juice. Do not reduce the sugar amount. Equal or other sugar substitute may be used as a replacement sweetener.
  • The number of eggs can be reduced to 2 or 3. The dressing will be thinner.
  • Save any remaining dressing in a screw-top jar and refrigerate for later use.

Gaeng bawt with chicken or duck ແກງປອ໋ດໃສ່ ໄກ່ ຫຼື ເປັດ gaeng bawt sai gai leur bpet

This is a typical Kalom (Tai Yuan) stew from Ban Khone, The Boat Landing’s village. It is prepared with whatever vegetables are in season. Ingredients for the dish in the top photo below include banana flower, gourd vine leaves, chilli wood (the dark stuff on the  left) and rattan, whereas the stew in the next photo uses baby corn, beans and snake gourd and is served with less liquid.

Gaeng bawt with duck ແກງປອ໋ດໃສ່ ເປັດ gaeng bawt sai bpet
Gaeng bawt with duck ແກງປອ໋ດໃສ່ ເປັດ gaeng bawt sai bpet
Gaeng bawt with alternative vegetables
Gaeng bawt with alternative vegetables


2½ C water (or more for a thinner dish)
1 t salt
3 pieces chilli wood ( mai sakahn), half a thumb-length (or substitute 1 green chilli, ½ teaspoon of black peppercorns plus several Sichuan peppercorns if you have them)
2 T oil
2 T garlic, chopped
½ C chicken or duck on the bone, cut soup-size, 2 cm (1 in)
2 stalks lemongrass, white only and bruised to release flavour
1 chilli (or more to taste)
3 small green apple eggplants, cut in eighths
½ C rattan pieces (or use pumpkin, squash, gourd, baby sweet corn or tinned rattan, soaked and drained)
¼ C gadawm gourd (optional; or any other gourd or squash)
4 leaves sawtooth herb (or substitute coriander/cilantro)
3 stems dill, cut into 4 cm (1½ in) pieces
2 stems lemon basil (pak i tou Lao), cut into 4 cm (1½ in) pieces
2 small long beans, cut into 4 cm (1½ in) pieces
3 T roasted rice powder
2 T thin soy sauce


  1. Put the water in a small pot, add ½ teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil
  2. In a wok, put 2 tablespoons of oil. Heat and add 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic. Stir fry briefly. Add the chicken pieces, lemongrass, the chilli and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir fry until the colour of the meat has changed. Transfer this mixture to the boiling water. Simmer.
  3. After 5 minutes, add the eggplant. Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, and then add the rattan (or substitute). Simmer 5 minutes more until cooked.
  4. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of roasted rice powder over the gaeng. Mix in smoothly. Add the long beans and herbs; simmer for a further 5 minutes. Finish with 2 tablespoons of thin soy sauce. Stir, taste and add more soy sauce or salt if needed.
  5. Transfer to a serving bowl.


  • Try using tofu or pork instead of chicken.

Lao vegetable soop ຊຸບຜັກ soop pak

A soop resembles either a cooked vegetable salad or a thick, herby stew. This dish is more a salad. It can be made with a wide variety of steamed or lightly boiled vegetables. In fact, the sesame seeds are the only essential ingredient. Everything else may be varied. This dish is particularly delicious when sesame seeds are liberally used. Serves four to six people.

Lao vegetable soop ຊຸບຜັກ soop pak
Lao vegetable soop ຊຸບຜັກ soop pak


1 C Chinese cabbage, cut in small, loose leaf pieces 7 cm (2 – 3in)
1 C cauliflower flowerets (or other white vegetable)
3 fingers sized amount of bamboo shoots, pre-cooked, finely sliced (optional)
3 long beans, cut into 4 cm (1½ in) pieces (or 10 green beans)
1 bunch sawtooth herb, three fingers-width, tailed and cut in half  (or coriander leaves)
½ – 1 C collard greens (or bok choi ), cut in 4 cm (1½ in) pieces
2 – 3 stems dill, cut into 4 cm (1½ in) lengths
2 very large or 4 medium  oyster mushrooms, torn in 1 – 2 cm (½ in) wide shreds
1 large bowlful water with 1 teaspoon of salt for refreshing vegetables
½ large head garlic, strung on toothpicks or satay sticks for grilling
3 or more red chillies (amount to taste or omit), strung on toothpicks for grilling
2 thin slices galangal or ginger
2 T to ⅓ C sesame seeds, dry roasted. A mixture of white and black seeds is desirable, although white alone is fine.
2 T soy sauce, padek or fish sauce (or to taste)
8 C water


  1. Prepare the vegetables as described, placing the readied ones in a large bowl. Add water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Rinse vegetables in the brine, picking off any wilting pieces. Let soak briefly.
  2. Put fresh water into the bottom of a steamer or a sticky rice pot and bring to the boil.
  3. Toast the sesame seeds. Place in a mortar. Pound until most of the seeds are broken. Remove and set aside.
  4. Steaming vegetables of soop pak
    Steaming vegetables of soop pak
  5. When the water comes to the boil, tip the vegetables into the steamer, allow them to drain and then place the steamer over the boiling water. Steam for 10 – 15 minutes depending on preferred crispness.
  6. Roast the garlic and chillies. Cool. Remove their charred skins. Add the peeled garlic, chillies and galangal/ ginger to the mortar. Pound until a paste forms. Adding a dash of salt helps the blending.
  7. When the vegetables are ready, toss them briefly in the steamer to expel the steam. Invert the steamer over a low-sided, wide bowl. Let the vegetables cool. Sprinkle them with the pounded sesame seeds and the pounded galangal/ginger and garlic paste. Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Gently use your hands to mix the ingredients together well. Taste and adjust with sauce if needed.
  8. Turn into a serving bowl, garnish with coriander and serve as part of a Lao meal. This dish goes well with sticky rice or can be used as a picnic dish.

Stir fried cucumber with duck in oyster sauce ຂົ້ວໝາກແຕງ ໃສ່ເປັດແລະນ້ຳມັນຫອຍ koua mak taeng sai pet leh nam man hoi

I’d never thought about using cucumber in a stir-fry before, but this is very common in Laos, where cucumbers are prolific growers and very cheap to buy. Not much meat is used in proportion to the amount of cucumbers. Increase the quantity to suit yourself. Chicken, turkey or pork is a fine substitute for duck. The recipe serves 6 – 8 as part of a Lao family meal. Half the recipe would be enough for four people if served as one of two main dishes along with rice for a simple, easy meal.

Stir fried cucumber with duck in oyster sauce ຂົ້ວໝາກແຕງ ໃສ່ເປັດແລະນ້ຳມັນຫອຍ koua mak taeng sai pet leh nam man hoi
Stir fried cucumber with duck in oyster sauce ຂົ້ວໝາກແຕງ ໃສ່ເປັດແລະນ້ຳມັນຫອຍ koua mak taeng sai pet leh nam man hoi


5 medium cucumbers or 2 telegraph cucumbers, washed (choose young ones with thin, edible skin and small seed core if possible)
½ duck breast with skin (or equivalent in thigh meat and skin)
1 T garlic, chopped
2 T fish sauce
2 T thin soy sauce
1 T chicken stock powder (optional)
3 T oyster sauce
½ t sugar
1 t chilli paste to taste (optional)
¼ C spring onion greens, finely sliced


  1. Separate the duck skin from the flesh, reserving fat. Slice the fat into 1 cm (½ in) pieces and the skin into 2 cm (1 in) slices. Set aside. Slice the duck meat finely across the grain. Set aside.
  2. Frying duck fat
    Frying duck fat

    Toss the chopped fat and skin into a heated wok set over a medium flame. Allow the fat to render down and the skin to fry until golden brown and crisp. At this stage (there will be a change in the frying sound and a fragrance released), push the crisp skin to one side. While the skin and fat are cooking, prepare the cucumbers.

  3. Peel the cucumbers if the skin is tough and bitter; cucumber is used in this dish to impart sweetness. Slice them in thin diagonal wedges, creating slices that taper off about two-thirds of the way through the cucumber. See soi slicing technique.
  4. Stir frying cucumber
    Stir frying cucumber

    Add the chopped garlic to the rendered fat and then the meat. Stir fry several minutes until the colour changes. Add the crisp duck skin and then the cucumber. Mix together and stir fry until all is heated through and starting to cook. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, stock powder, oyster sauce, optional chilli paste and sugar, briefly stirring between each addition to distribute the flavours evenly and merge them together.

  5. Cover and let cook for a few more minutes. The moisture from the cucumbers should be released to form a tasty sauce with the other flavourings, but the vegetable must not be overcooked. It should remain crisp.
  6. Taste for flavour and adjust. Stir in the spring onion greens. Transfer to a serving bowl.


  • For a low saturated fat dish, substitute the duck fat and skin with any oil other than olive. However, using the rendered fat and skin adds a silky richness and depth to the dish.
  • For a vegetarian alternative, use oil and substitute tofu for the meat or add a second vegetable to replace the meat. Vegetables might include a mix of Savoy cabbage and Chinese yellow flowering cabbage.
  • If cooking this dish with pork, consider adding pork fat and skin for authenticity.