They drove us to their base outside of town, complete with a flat tire on the way so we had to get out and walk for the last bit! The kitchen area is in a peaceful setting next to a small pond where they grow and catch their own fish, and has separate preparation, cooking, and eating areas.
We started by making jeow, which is a dip made from pounding up a bunch of vegetables with garlic and chili. I made jeow mak keua (eggplant dip), which started with me pricking the eggplant a few times with a knife, then roasting it over hot coals along with garlic and a big green chili.
We used these great ceramic barbecues, similar to the ones that were used at Freedomland on Phú Quốc Island.
When everything was thoroughly cooked and the eggplant was black on the outside, I took it off the barbecue and pounded it all together with a mortar and pestle.
This is excellent with sticky rice balled up in your hand and dipped in it!
Next was mok pa (fish steamed in banana leaves). Again, I pounded up a bunch of herbs with a mortar and pestle, covered a piece of fish with it, then wrapped it into a little banana leaf package to be steamed later.
This is how it came out, and I know it doesn’t look very appetizing, but it tasted amazing and was one of my favourite dishes of the day!
Next was Tamarind’s specialty, oua si khai (stuffed lemongrass). Now, you might ask “How could you possibly STUFF lemongrass? I’ll show you.
First, we pounded up minced chicken with a bunch of herbs and let it sit while we prepared the lemongrass. This took a very sharp small knife and a lot of patience and skill. I had to slice the lemongrass a bunch of times all the way around, through multiple layers for about a 10cm length of the stalk, all without slicing any of my fingers off!
Then you kind of push the lemongrass from each end and stick your finger in the cut part and hold it to make sort of a basket, and stuff the chicken mixture inside.
After letting them sit while we prepared the next dish, we rolled them in beaten egg and deep fried them until the chicken was cooked and the outside was crispy. It was served with jeow som (sour peanut dipping sauce) and was absolutely delicious!
Then we made laap, or what most people would call laap but is actually koy (minced meat and herb salad) because it doesn’t have an eggplant base. We used buffalo meat cut very finely, and cooked it with a bit of fish sauce and salt. Then we added a ton of other ingredients and herbs and mixed it all together and voila!
Then we sat down to eat this entire delicious meal! The tiny basket is full of sticky rice for eating with the jeow and koy, but I didn’t eat much of that because there were so many other tasty things and I didn’t have room in my belly!
After all of that we still had dessert, which was khao gam (purple sticky rice with coconut sauce), which simply involved heating coconut milk with sugar and salt, then pouring it over purple sticky rice and leaving it to sit and absorb the liquid. Then top it with fruit of your choice and dig in! Yum!
This was an excellent way to spend the day, and if you’re going to Luang Prabang, I highly recommend Tamarind Laos Cooking School. Don’t eat before you go because you’ll be stuffed by the end of it!