A coffee hangover?

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19 July 2010
Day 12 – Pakse to Phakson district

We left early this morning to drive to the Bolaven plateau to see the coffee plantations and to visit the Laven ethnic people, who are indigenous to this area.

On the way, we stopped to get some more information about Phakson district and about what are the local delicacies. We met Mr. Seng kao from the Head Office for Information, Culture and Tourism Ministry in Phakson district.

The whole meeting was handled very officially and made me remember what country I was in.  In his office were pictures of Marx and Lenin and extremely tacky paintings of water falls. I loved the look of it so much. It would make great postcards. I should have suggested that.

He was extremely helpful and he offered to come with us to the coffee plantations where he knew a family that cooked some really great local food. We drove for about 15 minutes and we stopped over on a hill to enjoy the view. There was not much of a view but this Bolaven area is as well known for its cool climate and I could not believe only after such a short drive that it was so much cooler. It was incredible. I felt like I was in Switzerland.

After a while of lovely picture taking we drove to the coffee plantation. It was interesting to see how coffee grows and of course we had to taste some as well. They grow Rustica and Arabia coffee there. The coffee we had was very strong and it was not to every one’s liking. Ket enjoyed it and had two cups but actually got very ill from it. She said that she was drunk from coffee and that being ill means dealing with the coffee hangover. I was actually really getting worried about her but I was glad she was perfectly fine the next morning again.

We then went to visit Mr. Som Sovan and his wife, who run a small local restaurant and offered to cook with them some Laven ethnic food and some Lao Lum dishes.

The Makphet students went straight for it and it looked like they had been working in this kitchen for ages. It was great to see them so comfortable in the kitchen and I can see in both of them that really have a hand for cooking. We’re really proud of them.

His kitchen was one of the cleanest and nicest local kitchens I have seen in Laos and his wife cooked the best food I have had so far on my travels.

This is what they cooked:

Raw shrimp marinated with chili, garlic, herbs and fish sauce
Sour chicken soup with tamarind, tomatoes and lemongrass
Pork and mint salad
Fish Laap (ever so popular wherever we are in Laos)
Crispy fried duck chin (not a spelling mistake)
Green onion, chili and tomato dip with steamed vegetable such as chayotes, mixed wild greens, Chinese cabbage etc.
Steamed Yaruo rice

The dip is a very traditional Laven dish to eat and it was the best dip I have ever eaten. We all decided that it has to go in the book.

The dishes were served with special highland grown rice named after the Yaruo people who grow it and I have never tasted anything like it. It looks like a mixture of sticky rice and Jasmine rice but not as sticky and very full of flavor even a little bit nutty tasting. Sadly you can only buy the rice in this area because I would love to have this regularly.

The couple also showed us their gardens and because the husband was a soldier and a sports pistol shooter, he was proudly showed us all the medals he had won in national competitions. He even came fourth place at the SEA games that were held in Laos last year.

We left with a full stomach and feeling very happy that we had found some new dishes for our book and so many dishes that we can put on our new Makphet menu.

After that we visited some Laven people in the area. The scenery was magical, some parts looked liked the forests in the brothers Grimm fairy tales.

We have another early start tomorrow because we are going to Savannakhet province in central Laos.

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