Northern Thailand and Laos are no exception.
I'd done a couple of one-day courses in Thai cuisine but knew very little about cooking in Laos. So, early on in our first week in Luang Prabang, I signed up for a half-day cooking course at the Villa Santi, a boutique hotel in one of the town's old colonial buildings. The course was held at its sister property, the Santi Resort and Spa, about 5 km out in the country.
A little bus took me there. For the first half hour I was left to my own resources so I wandered around the grounds. It was the most beautiful day with just a faint haze over the mountains.
|The resort has planted a small rice paddy in its grounds.|
The best thing was...I was the only student. Just me and a young chef who didn't speak a word of English and a young hotel employee so incredibly savvy that you could almost guarantee she's going to end up running some splendiferous four-star hotel. The point was, she spoke perfect English. Not that you need language skills when you're learning to cook. Watching, tasting, that's usually enough, but it is handy to know the name of a specific ingredient if it translates into English.
|Kaeng pak nam is watercress soup with minced pork. Light and tasty, it only took minutes to make.|
|Sticky rice with mango or sangaka mamueng as it's called locally.|
|Once I'd finished cooking, hotel staff set up my lunch table on the terrace with its view over the rice paddy. Fresh spring rolls, a green papaya salad, the soup, sweet and sour fish. chicken curry and the sticky rice with mango.|
We began with a walk around the Phousi Market (see earlier post)) then took a tuktuk back to the kitchen. Four students, two instructors. This time, they demonstrated the dish, then left us to make it ourselves from prepped ingredients using the recipe provided.
|Ingredients at the ready...cooking is so much easier when someone else does all the chopping and measuring.|
|On your left, a Luang Prabang salad. I found the mayonnaise-type dressing too rich (it was made with hard-boiled egg yolks), and I'd probably leave out the optional minced pork. Otherwise, a keeper.|
|Finished dishes. Simple garnishes of lettuce leaves, tomato and cucumber...|