From Honeybees to Pepperwood

From Honeybees to Pepperwood, Creative Lao Cooking with Friends is the cookbook from Makphet Restaurant in Vientiane, Laos.

I have mentioned the restaurant in a few of my previous posts because I think that it is an important place. It´s not only a place that serves good clean food, it´s also a training restaurant.

The restaurant is part of the Friends-International Peuan Mit (meaning “friends” in Lao) Project. As well as the restaurant they also have the Peuan Mit Garage. Free training is provided for young people in both these outlets and graduates are supported to find employment once they have completed their training.

The organisation also runs a mobile school which provides classes in Vientiane and its suburbs. There is also a Centre (provided by the Lao Government) which provides remedial classes, hygiene facilities, recreational workshops (art, dance, drama, sport) emergency shelter, life-skills education and counselling sessions to children and youth.

You can tell from the front cover that the contents inside will be colourful. Indeed the pages are adorned with colourful paintings and photographs.

The recipes are not just a collection of dishes from the restaurant, in fact the team led by Gustav Auer (himself also a chef, so you definitely know there’s a “labour of love” involved), travelled across Laos, from the northern tip to the southern boarders, visiting various regions and provinces to capture and record food from diverse ethnic groups.

Apart from the photographs of the dishes, there is also an array of photos from their travels through Laos depicting glorious shots of the countryside, markets and people, especially smiling happy children.

The recipes are divided in to 6 sections. there is also a short illustrated guide to herbs and spices.

The first section is about Dips, also known as “Jeow” in Lao.

No Lao meal would be complete without one form of Jeow. They must have encountered 100´s of different Jeow´s along their travels! You would have to dedicate an entire book on Laotian Dips if you wanted to present them all! (Maybe that’s not such a bad idea!). :biggrin:

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A recipe for one of my favourites, Jeow Bong is also included.

There is nothing better than some sticky rice and a spicy/sweet Jeow Bong. Yum!

The recipes are easy to follow and are also translated in to Lao.

Some other Jeows included in this chapter, to name a few include:

  • Grilled Tomato, Garlic and Shallot Dip (Jeow Maklen)
  • Grilled Eggplant Dip (Jeow Mak Keua)
  • Hmong Style Wild Mushroom and Chili Dip (Jeow Hed Hmong)

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The next chapter is dedicated to Salads and Laap.

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Everyone enjoys a good Laap dish, whether its main ingredient is beef, chicken, pork or seafood. These dishes are light,  healthy and best of all, spicy and herby…

Some notable recipes included in this chapter include:

  • Banana Flower Tofu and Mushroom Laap with Soy and Lime Dressing (Laap Taohou)
  • Lao Famous Spicy Green Papaya Salad (Tum Mak Hoong)
  • Spicy Crispy Rice Dumplings and Pork Sausage Salad with coconut (Naem Khao)
  • Mekong River Fish and Banana Flower Laap with Young Galangal (Goi Pa).

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The recipe for the Tum Mak Hoong started off a very long conversation between myself and the rest of the team. It seems that “everyone´s mother” makes the “best” Papaya Salad!!! :biggrin:

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The next chapter looks at Soups and Curries.

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Soups remind me of the Noodles Stalls selling steaming bowls of soup, available to “eat in” or “take away” in plastic bags!

Curries remind me of good homely cooking. Slow cooking.

Some notable dishes included in this chapter are:

  • Curried Fish and Coconut Soup with Rice Noodles (Mee Gah Thi)
  • Luang Prabang Style Rice Noodle Soup with pork and Tomatoes (Khao Soi Luang Prabang)
  • Savannakhet Style Fish Dumpling and Rice Noodle Soup (Khao Peak Pa)

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The next section gives you a 3 in 1.

Grill, Steam, Fry.

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Grilling, Steaming and Frying are the most common forms of cooking in Laos.

Grilling over an open fire fuelled by wood or charcoal releases wonderful aromas. Steaming offers a healthy variety of possibilities, especially fish and vegetables. Frying, either by Wok or Deep Frying offers a quick way to prepare ingredients.

Some wonderful dishes in this section include:

  • Spiced Lao Pork Sausages (Sai Oua)
  • Steamed Green Vegetables, Herb and Mushroom Salad with Padek and Sesame Dressing (Soup Phak)
  • (the fantastically named and looking) Amok with Young Honeybee Larvae and Quail Eggs (Mok Taw On)

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Thereafter we move on to Sweets.

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Each province in Laos offers her own tempting selections.

There is a reason why this section is not entitled “Desserts”.

Sweets are enjoyed in Laos as a snack throughout the day. Lao meals are typically finished with some fresh fruit rather than a sweet dish.

Some tempting dishes in this chapter include:

  • Pandan Scented Sago with Mango and Sweet Coconut Milk (Sakoo Baitoey)
  • Steamed Sticky Rice Cakes with Bananas and Coconut (Khao Tom)

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The final section looks at Chilled Temptations that include some cooled drinks and cocktails that are on offer in the restaurant.

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I was going to count the number of photographs that appear in the cookbook but gave up after the Dip Section (more than 100 so far!).

The photos posted above are not so clear, the reason is my scanner is old and very slow, but believe me, the book is very vibrant!

It looks like the results of the restaurant team´s travels and hard work have paid off and the resulting book is worthy of being on the bookshelf of anyone interested in Laos, her cuisine and her people.

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Well done to Gustav and the team at Makphet Restaurant!!

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Needless to say, all proceeds from the sale of the book go back to the Friends-International Projects that help children.

Further interesting reading at Making Friends (cookbook) in Laos blog, and much better quality photos from the book at Friends Lao Cookbook Flickr Photostream.

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