Khamsouk’s wedding, Part 4 and final

The bride, groom and family lined up to receive the guests

At the entry, big signs announce the event, and the family and some village elders line up to welcome the guest. A heart shaped box to receive the donations (guests use the envelope with their invitation to donate some money towards the cost of the party).

Guests arriving

The guests started arriving, many of them colleagues of the groom (He is a local police officer).

Groom and bride greeting the guests

Uncles and aunts and cousins from town and villages, some arriving by motorcycle, some by tuk tuk or private truck. They slowly start filling up the many tables, and start eating and drinking. After most guests have arrived, the welcoming party lines up in a half circle under the parachute, for formal photographs.

The formal family group photo

This causes a bit of confusion, since I am the photographer and Khamsouk insists that Dolly and I as ‘adopted grandparents’ join the family group for the photographs.Note that the central spave for this which will later be used for dancing, is a big parachute, decorated with banana leaves and balloons. The parachute is to keep the sun off the dancers, and still provide some light.

Since it is a half circle of about 25 people, this turns out a bit odd anyway.

Weddings are a serious affair!

That out of the way, the band starts and the newly wed couple have the first dance, soon joined by many others.






Bride and groom leading the first dance

The main dance style at these occasions is the Lam Wong. To an outsider, it looks like two people dancing together trying hard not to touch each other or look at each other, waving their arms a bit, but as sedately as possible, walking slowly in a circle, looking far away. Not very expressive in my opinion, but that’s how it is.

After a while, the groom and bride start doing the rounds, The bride carries a tray with two tiny cups, the groom fills them with whiskey (Johnny Walker), and offers them to each guest. The guest may take the opportunity to put a few banknotes on the tray, then, bottoms up!

A drink offered to the guest for toasting the couple

This ceremonial round takes over an hour, during which the guests dance, drink and eat.

Enjoing the food and drink

A few hours into the party, it is found that instead of 300 expected guests, about 400 have turned up, and the beer is running low. Uncle who owned the ‘restaurant’ where I had lunch last month (See the post about having lunch with a policeman etc) offers to buy half a dozen crates of beer, and we join in and also add half a dozen more, the party rolls on.

Dancing with the bride

I get a chance to dance with the bride, and get poured some more lao lao, washed down with beer. It is now after three in the afternoon, I know the hard line party goers will continue until the last drop of alcohol is gone, probably after dark, but I know I still have to ride our motorbike home, and consider it safer to leave at this stage.

Next morning, we receive an urgent phone call to invite us to the after wedding party, which is another food and drink function in the village, especially for all the volunteers who cooked and worked for the wedding. We are partied out and only stay an hour or two. But the photographs were appreciated by all.

Our Lao cookbook wins a Gourmand World Cookbook Award

The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards have just announced the best cookbook of the year, 2010,  for 57 countries, and Food from Northern Laos – The Boat Landing Cookbook (Galangal Press) won the award for Laos. We are very happy, as the book contains heaps of Lao recipes, descriptions of ingredients etc and has Lao script, so such recognition hopefully will promote Lao food throughout the world. One of these 57 books (chosen from around 8,000 entries) will be the « Best Cookbook of the Year ». The shortlist will be announced in January, and the « Best in the World » will be proclaimed March 3, 2011 in Paris, in a glamorous awards event at the Theatre Le 104, within Le 104, the new Artistic Center of the City of Paris. In January we think they will also announce the Best Asian Cookbook award and other categories, so, fingers crossed! Whoppee!

Read about it here: Press Release, December 14, 2010 Cookbook Winners!

Visit their website Gourmand World Cookbook Awards

Yanang leaves ໃບຍານາງ bai yanang


A food from the forest, yanang is used throughout Thailand and Laos. The juice extracted from the leaves is used in all sorts of Lao recipes for bamboo dishes, especially bamboo shoot soup, gaeng naw mai. A moke may be made with fresh rock algae and yanang juice. Tinned yanang juice is available from Asian food suppliers.

Tinned yanang juice
Tinned yanang juice

To extract the juice from yanang leaves, bruise the leaves with either a mortar and pestle or on a chopping board with a pestle or the back of a cleaver. Place the leaves in a bowl with 2 cups of cold water. Rub the leaves together to extract the aromatic juice. Alternatively, place the leaves and the water in a blender or food processor and mix until the liquid foams. Strain the resultant juice off and throw away the leaf remnants.

Visit to Laos

Kees and I are off to Laos on Saturday. Can’t wait! We’ll arrive in Vientiane on Sunday evening, then on Tuesday head up to Luang Prabang. We also hope to go to Luang Namtha, depending on road conditions in the rainy season. Evidently roads are pretty bad up there right now, with landslides in the mountainous countryside. The rainy season is great for food though, with a profusion of  young bamboo shoots, gourds, mushrooms and other delights!

On 7th October Kees, Khamsouk and I will be doing a presentation on food from northern Laos for the WIG Cultural Studies group. We will use Kees’ photos, Khamsouk’s demos and talk about Northern Lao ingredients and types of dishes, then concentrate on Akha, Kmhmu’ (Khamu) and Lanten food within their individual cultural contexts. The presentation and book signing will be held at Monument Books, in Vientiane. They will also be stocking the book. I’ll post information about time etc of the presentation as soon as we know. Posters will be up around town soon.