VIDEO: Lao Cooking Class

Whenever I put on an apron I feel like a bit of a fraud.  Lately, we’ve taken a lot of one day cooking courses including learning how to make Thai food, trying our hand at Vietnamese cuisine and thumbing our way through Khmer delicacies; however, my confidence in the kitchen is not exactly sky high.  Regardless, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try making our favorite Lao dishes when we found out Tamarind (our favorite restaurant in Luang Prabang) offered one day classes.

Assortment of vegetables and ingredients to be used in our Lao cooking class

We were thrilled when our Songthaew, carrying our entire cooking class, pulled up into a tranquil garden setting far away from the city center.

The gorgeous views from Tamarind cooking school in Luang Prabang, Laos

Compared to other cooking classes this was aimed at a more advanced level.  Our Lao instructor would give a quick demonstration at the display table and then send us off to try our best at recreating the magic ourselves.  Audrey certainly kept up to speed whereas I was constantly falling behind.  At one point, when were were making a curry sauce for our steamed fish dish ‘Mok Pa’ I looked down and realized I only had only created half the sauce compared to Audrey.  I couldn’t help but chuckle at my clear cut culinary shortcomings.

The difference between Thai and Lao food was hammered home emphatically by our Lao cooking instructor:  “We don’t put much sugar in Lao cooking like Thai food. You taste Thai food and it tastes milky and creamy and sweet because they add lots of coconut milk and lots of sugar. That is why the food tastes like that. Lao food is very different tasting like lots of herbs and lots of texture. This is Laos food. This does not mean Thai food is not tasty. Thai food is very tasty but our food tastes different.”

Overall, our experience at Tamarind cooking school was pleasant; however, compared to other cooking schools I felt it lacked a bit in terms of personal instruction and one on one help.  For culinary wizards, this wouldn’t be problematic, but for me it manifested in more than a few failed dishes ;)

Roasting eggplant over the fire at our Lao cooking school

Video Transcript

Here we are visiting a market again and that can only mean one thing – we are taking a cooking course yet again. Today we are going to be learning how to make Lao food and our first stop is Phou Si market. It is the biggest market in Luang Prabang and apparently it opens up at four in the morning.

For our cooking class today it’s an awesome surprise – we’ve got this lush garden setting. It feels like we’re just walking into someones backyard.

In Laos his wife and daughter cook for the family not the husband and son. This is culture.

We don’t put much sugar in Lao cooking like Thai food. You taste Thai food and it tastes milky and creamy and sweet because they add lots of coconut milk and lots of sugar. That is why the food tastes like that. Lao food is very different tasting like lots of herbs and lots of texture. This is Laos food. This does not mean Thai food is not tasty. Thai food is very tasty but our food tastes different.

I’m pounding peppers, onions and that is it.

Now time to try your tomato dip. I made mine really spicy accidentally because I thought we were cooking this. I’m making a little ball with the sticky rice. Voila! I’ll dip it in here. How is it? It has a real kick to it but it is so good. It has lemon juice, hot peppers, garlic. I like it.

I’d like to point out that Sam and I are making the exact same dish. This is his sauce. This is mine. What are you missing? Just about everything.

We’re making the Mok Pa fish and you are going to show us how to wrap it.

What a work of art Audrey. Amazing! Oh, be quiet. It is going to taste amazing.

We’re cooking our buffalo meat right now.

Here we have our buffalo salad. We stir-fried some buffalo meat and we also added bean sprouts,banana flowers, string beans, hot chilies and mint leaves. We’re going to be rolling this up in lettuce leaves. It’s kind of like a little fresh roll.

Have you tried Lao cuisine before?  Would you consider taking a cooking course?

Lao Cooking Class at Tamarind in Luang Prabang, Laos travel video

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike February 21, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Very interesting on the coconut milk and sugar with the differences between Thai and Lao cooking. I would love to take a cooking class. I do quite well in the kitchen but that is following online recipes that have step by step picture instructions. I’m in the same boat as you, Samuel….I need folks to slow down and explain it all to me :)

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Samuel Jeffery February 22, 2014 at 1:37 am

Thanks Mike!

Hahaha…I’m okay if I’m allowed to take as long as I want preparing something ;)

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Anna McPherson February 21, 2014 at 8:17 pm

What did happen to your sauce Samuel? I havn’t tried Lao cuisine before, but would certainly give it and a cooking course a go. I think one of the great things to do when experiencing new cultures is to take a cooking course. Great vid guys :)

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Samuel Jeffery February 22, 2014 at 1:38 am

Thanks Anna!

LOL, I’m still looking for that sauce ;) Indeed, I totally agree with you – a great way to experience food/culture.

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Samuel Jeffery February 27, 2014 at 7:17 am

Thanks Anna! I think it just magically disappeared ;)

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Cheryl Howard February 21, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Ha ha, I’d be in the same boat as you and would need lots of help! Looks like a ton of fun though. :)

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Samuel Jeffery February 22, 2014 at 1:39 am

Thanks Cheryl!

I’m all thumbs in the kitchen ;)

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Samuel Jeffery February 27, 2014 at 7:17 am

LOL, I’m just glad I didn’t cause and accident and/or incident Cheryl ;)

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Mary @ Green Global Travel February 24, 2014 at 12:38 am

Mmmmm! What an amazing cooking class. The meal looks delicious. Thanks for sharing. :-)

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Samuel Jeffery February 27, 2014 at 7:15 am

Thanks Mary! We felt lucky to have the opportunity to go!

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Alex-Wanderlust Marriage February 25, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Excellent stuff and very inspiring to visit Lao! We love the food in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia in particular and found it more hit and miss in Vietnam. So we’ve danced around Lao but haven’t made it in yet. Some day and thanks for the added inspiration! :)

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Samuel Jeffery February 27, 2014 at 7:07 am

Thanks Alex,

We’re now in Malaysia and I have to say it is my favorite country in SE Asia for food – we absolutely love the diversity!

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Ricardo February 25, 2014 at 7:22 pm

I have always wanted to go to Laos, that food looks fantastic and I think it is just a much more relaxed place than Thailand and some of the other South East Asian countries.

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Samuel Jeffery February 27, 2014 at 7:06 am

Indeed, it truly is Ricardo! If you’re worn down from Vietnam or Thailand it is the perfect retreat :)

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Arti February 28, 2014 at 2:01 am

Its always good to try out new cuisines, I love cooking as well!

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Samuel Jeffery March 4, 2014 at 5:50 am

Thanks Arti!

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Rob March 6, 2014 at 1:46 am

The cooking class was cool, but those are some amazing ingredients. I can’t imagine how fresh!

Thanks for the share!

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