Prior to my arrival in Laos – I had never tasted or seen Lao cuisine. Or so I thought…
Little did I know, Northern Thai cuisine and Cambodian cuisine were developed from Lao cuisine! This explains why the names are similar if not the same and tastes similar as well. I was in for a treat… and HEAT! Spicy, hot, heat! Bring me a towel, sweat from the spicy food will be competing with sweat from the hot, humid weather.
Before embarking on this Epic journey, I figured I had to go into training – what type of training you ask…I had to train myself to be able to eat spicy food! I gave myself 3 months to ramp things up.
Growing up, I am the odd ball in my whole family who cannot eat spicy food. Maybe it did not help that my mom would set aside a portion of whatever she cooked for me, before adding chili or hot spice to her cooking. This limited the variety of food I could consume for much of my life. I couldn’t even handle my mom’s hot & sour soup – how sad! When I decided I will travel to Asia, I knew my chili threshold has to be raised!
No more ‘mild’ dishes. Bring the HEAT!
I am glad I did what I did, otherwise, I would have missed out on many tasty dishes in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Cambodia. Well there is also the belief that eating spicy food will kill off all ‘bad’ bacteria – haha.
One thing of note, except for one dinner in a “westernized” restaurant with a new friend – all of my meals were eaten alongside locals or on the street. The reasons – for true authenticity, to stretch my budget, and for variety. For example, a bowl of Khao soy noodles was less than $1.50 CAD!! I have found some of the same dishes here back in Toronto but not everything.
N.B. Heat wise – The chili meat paste in the Khao soy is comparable to the Sambal paste in Malaysia!
I love how I get so much more when all I ordered was a simple bowl of Khao soy noodle. A bowl full of fresh greens (mint, lettuce, basil), another bowl full of flavorings (chili, lime, green onion, green string beans) then of course, the pertinent fish sauce and more chili sauces. All of this for less than $1.50 CAD.
The “rice cake” was delicious on it’s own and with a dab of chili paste. I was just glad there was a pack of tissues for my sweaty brows!
Yes I drink drinks with ice cubes and eat desserts with ice cubes in it. Touch wood – so far so good. I do have my Hep A and Hep B shots – my friends also think that I have a stomach made of steel. Or that I have eaten street food all my life.
When traveling around the world, familiar sights and tastes is a bitter-sweet experience. Even when I am not homesick, I become homesick at the mere sight of anything reminding me of home. Naturally I need the taste to sooth the homesickness. While in Luang Prabang, it was crepes with Nutella that messed me up.
When I left Laos, I promised myself that I will have to return in the near future! A few days in just one city did not do Laos justice.