Tails in the stew

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10 July 2010
Day 3 – Villages just outside of Luang Prabang

This morning we were meeting three different ethnic villages to cook with them and get their special recipes.

The villages are about 30 km outside of Luang Prabang and our very helpful travel agent whom we had met the previous day, met us on the way there. He knew the village chief and the people leaving in the village very well and he kindly offered his services for free, so we gladly accepted his help.

I was a bit worried at the beginning that he was going to surprise us with a bill for all of this, but I think I will need to start to have a little more faith in people because he even bought a case of water for us!

A boat ride and then a brisk 20 minute walk took us to the village of the Lue ethnic people. They cooked us a very interesting lunch with things like raw buffalo meat, semi-digested  buffalo ingredients from its intestines  (I believe it is called bile and buffalo skin which was a real challenge to eat) and a very lovely freshly picked bamboo and young corn soup, with a herb that tastes like tiger balm.

We went across the river, where we cooked a very simple but delicious pumpkin flower soup with a Hmong tribe. Hmong food is known to be very simple and very different from other Lao food.

The people here are poor, so  they survive mostly on things that grow wild in the forest. It was just so amazing walking with them picking their meal on the way home from the fields. The whole village was just so beautiful to look at, the people are shy but very friendly. You can see that life for them is very hard.

The last ethnic group we visited were the Khamu people. The family that cooked for us was the brother of the village chief and they were wealthier then the rest of the village. They even had a fridge.

His wife cooked for as stew of smoked buffalo and field rats with herbs and spices and cooked in bamboo over open fire. It was actually very nice tasting but having to look at the rat and its tail did not help the meal. Ghislain did not have any problems eating it (even the tail) but even our Lao team were not quite sure about it!

I was very lucky enough to have the opportunity to do some ploughing with the Lue people in their rice field. It looked so much easier than it really is and the buffalo wasn’t interested in listening to me at all. It must have been my German accent that confused her.

It was a fascinating day and I am satisfied with the achievements so far. It is great to see our team is so interested and excited about this project. Having Ket on this trip is the best thing ever since she is incredibly organized helpful and brilliant in communicating with the locals. Yesterday evening we took a break so we want for a disappointing western dinner (a whole day of ethnic food can do that to you) which made us realize it is far better to stick to local food, rats and all.

Tomorrow we are going to an early morning cooking lesson with the chef from Tamarind restaurant, then a day trip to the caves and water falls in the hope of taking great pictures and finding some interesting food stalls there that serve snacks and sweets.

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