You know what else this little project is good for besides all the delicious and interesting food?
A geography lesson.
As Tomato and Apple Crisp can attest, I have THE ABSOLUTE WORST sense of direction. I often get lost in parking lots and malls, both quite recently as a matter of fact. This lack of spacial awareness extends to geography. A few years ago I suggested that BLT go to Turkey after our little Oktoberfest jaunt in Munich because I thought they were close to each other. Oops. Turkey was lovely though…
Anyway, this week, I bring you the wonders of Laos and Cambodia. I knew that they were in Southwest Asia but had no idea exactly where they were or how they were oriented. Until now.
Sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam, these two countries share many of their culinary traditions. Because Laos also shares some elbow room with China, throw some of that into the mix a well. The result? The ultimate fusion cuisine.
According to Wikipedia (take that for what you will), sticky rice is the staple food, and is considered the essence of what it means to be “Lao” — sometimes the Lao even referred to themselves as “Luk Khao Niaow“, which can be translated as “descendants of sticky rice.” I’ve heard of “children of the corn,” and now we have “children of the rice.” Just as scary? Think about it.
Besides the rice, the dishes are very vegetable heavy with bunches of herbs such as cilantro, mint, dill, ginger, garlic and shallots to flavor them. White meats and fish are the most common proteins. According to this very interesting article, oil is expensive, so almost nothing gets sautéed and most cooking is done by steaming or grilled, seasoned with an herb-rich marinade or a simple baste of oyster sauce to boost flavor.
As for Cambodia, all accounts say that the food seems to be pretty lackluster. Simple ingredients, simple tastes. Staples are rice and noodles, and fish sauce is a favorite topping for, well, everything. Let’s see what I can do to spice up this cuisine.
Bai Sach Chrouk (BBQ Pork and Rice with Sweet and Sour Sauce)