Friday, January 31, 2014

Day 20 - Laos: I made a mockery of the Lao kitchen...

After a lounging day of doing a whole lot of nothing, I endeavored to master the art of Lao cooking. I was successful....successful in making a mockery of the Lao kitchen, that is.

I would like to say I was not totally setup for success by Leng and Phia, the perfunctory and stoic cooking team who ramboed through the demonstration of 4 dishes - chop, dice, dice, sizzle, serve - "Easy, now you choose 2 dishes."

A sign on the wall said, "We find most people are shy and don't ask questions. Please feel free to ask us about anything," Yet, any questions asked were addressed with curt 1-2 word replies and with a hint of disgust for our incompetence. If these 2 were caricatures on a Seinfield episode, they clearly would have befriended the 'Soup Nazi."

They sent us off to our stations without further guidance. I was the only non-vegetarian who did not have a sous chef at my station. (Not trying to make excuses for myself, just stating the facts :p)

Dish #1, Pork Laap, unraveled poorly, but decided I should move on since the efficient German station had already exclaimed they were done with dish #1 minutes before.

As I collected ingredients for dish #2 from the main station, Phia barked, "Hurry, everyone's almost done.

I get back into my groove, browning the garlic and lemongrass, preparing to drop in the 'minced' chicken Phia provided me. But alas, I noticed the chicken was actually a whole breast and I had only 1 cutting board for both my veggies and meat. I quickly tried to slice the chicken, but the unattended sizzling garlic vanished into a crunchy, blackened ash in my pan.

'Start over,' Phia said without offering assistance, 'Hurry, everyone's finished!"

This was not quite true because I passed the station with two 22 year old English girls who were lamenting and laughing over their accidental explosion of chili paste into their dish and their ineptitude with how to cook chicken. Not that I'm proud that my cooking skills were on an equal playing field as the college students.

I raced through dish #2, ending up with a liquefied sorry sight. With my 2 inedible dishes in front of me, I called Phia over to help me figure out what I did wrong, he recoiled at the of idea of trying my dish, shaking his head vehemently. When he realized I would not disappear, he relented, tried a small bite of the pork laap and said,

'Too much rice powder"

"But the recipe called for 1 Tablespoon, and I put in 1 Tablespoon"

"Too much"

"How can I fix it?"

"Its ok. Its ok." He said, placating me. "Go eat" and he flicked his hands toward the door, shooing me out of his kitchen.

I brought my sad dishes outside and sat next to the hungry looking English girls who were afraid they were going to get sick eating their flaming red concoction.

"Dinner at the night market too?" I said to the English girls with a smile, accepting defeat.

I left to get a proper home-cooked meal on the street.

NEXT STOP: Lounging in Nong Khiaw

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