18 July 2010
Day 11 – Pakse
We finally had a good night’s sleep and a very nice breakfast, so we were ready for a full day of discovery and adventure.
Ket had organized through a friend of hers to meet Mr Seng Keo, an employee of the Ministry of Justice here in Pakse. He was willing to give us some info about food and people from this area.
He gave as lots of great advice and showed us a restaurant that was truly Lao. We got really excited when we meet the owner of the place, especially when she informed us that she would love to give us recipes and let us cook with her. However, she was afraid that she might get into trouble because she sold game meat, which is illegal to sell in Laos. But then she told us that her sister owns a restaurant on the riverfront and everything that she sells is legal, and actually the food is better than what she sells anyway. I thought it was such a funny statement and an honest thing to say!
Before we left, we noticed this real big glass jars which dark liquid in it. She told us that it was Lao whisky with porcupine blood and giant bats blood, which is drunk to give you strength and power. We decided that none of us needed that kind of power.
So we went to her sister’s restaurant and organized with the chef, Mrs Phousomei, to cook four dishes that are a specialty in this area later that afternoon.
We then decided to visit the Phasuam waterfalls which are about 30km outside of town and our dear friend Mr. Seng Kao told us that there were lots of ethnic minorities living there.
We arrived and thought that it looked like a nice weekend getaway, so we took some pictures and were looking forward to visiting the ethnic minority people. But sadly it ended up being a misunderstanding because it turned out to be an ethnic hill tribe museum that actually relocated these poor people from other provinces all over Laos, just to be stared at. We did not feel comfortable at all and just wanted leave as soon as possible. Nearly half way back to Pakse, someone realized that they had left their journal back at the museum. Oops. I must have been in a real hurry to get away from there. So we had to turn around and go back since the journal had 12 days of work from this trip including recipes, quotes, names and more. I panicked and worried it was gone. When I arrived I could not find it so we asked the hill tribe people and one of them at a hut a little further away waved at me with a big smile on his face. He said he knew I would come back for it so he kept it safe for me.
Sadly (or maybe it was fortunate, because I probably would have left that behind too) I did not have the camera with me at the time because he was such an incredible looking person. He had really long hair like Bob Marley and a face that I am sure could tell us lots of interesting stories. It was almost worth forgetting the journal just to meet him.
We arrived back in Pakse at three o’clock for our cooking lessons and the students from Makphet went right for it. Mrs Phousomei is a gifted cook but as well a great teacher and she cooked these dishes with our team in less then 30 minutes. I could not keep up writing everything down and Ghislain was under serious pressure to take photos. Ghislain has been just so fantastic at this trip because he is happy to take pictures anytime, anywhere. He did tell me yesterday that he has a sore eyelid since he has spent so much time looking through his lens lately! I thought that was funny because I get sore legs when I exercise, so I guess it’s the same. I just hope he doesn’t end up with one really big eyelid!
The dishes that our team and Mrs. Phousomei cooked were:
Fish Laap Pakse style
Tamarind scented fish soup
Fermented fish cakes
Salted fish with egg and tomatoes
Fermented beef sausages
We tasted all the dishes, and our Lao team all liked it, but for the first time I think I have to say that it will take me some more time to really appreciate some of these Lao dishes. But then again, I don’t like all French or Austrian dishes either, so it’s nothing unusual. It’s my job to be honest and critical about food especially if it comes to putting them on the Makphet menu or in our cookbook.
After that we all called it the day. Madame Vone, Ket and the kids went to visit a family that lives here, and Ghislain and I did the same thing that we do every evening. Ghislain sorted out his pictures, I wrote my journal and replied to emails which I don’t get to do during the day.
Tomorrow we have decided to go to the Bolaven plateau to see the coffee plantations and hopefully some hill tribe people.