Category Archives: Recipes

Khamsouk’s wedding – Part 3, the formal ceremony

Around 9.30, the bride emerged from her house, ready to walk up the hill to her parents’ house,where the ceremony was being held. We walked up with her and her husband.

When we arrived, the room was already almost full. The bride and groom were installed opposite the 2 round tables with the big conical construction made with banana leaves on each that is used as centrepiece  at baci ceremonies. The photographer in me groaned when he saw they were sitting in the shade of the two big structures, at an angle almost impossible to photograph.

Groom waiting

The groom, waiting for the misplaced document to arrive

So this ended up being one of my rare flash photography occasions.

Lighting the candles

Lighting the candles marks the start of the ceremony

Then we waited, while someone had run back to the shop at the roadside to find a missing piece of paper.

Poh and Meh looking after Media

Khamsouk gave the searcher instructions by cellphone, about where it would be. It took another 15 minute wait, and several frantic phone calls, and I’m not sure if the missing paper was ever produced.


Listening to the chanting

Then the ceremony took place. A liturgy in (I think) Pali, was read/chanted.


Then strings were tied, mainly around the wrists of the bride and groom, but also the parents, Media (their daughter) and the guests.

Tying strings on the Groom

The Elder ties a string on the wrist of the groom


Poh tying string on his daughter

Mehtouh (grandmother) tying string

Someone absconded with my camera when it was my turn to receive and give strings. But they used it OK, and it came back with pictures of me being stringed.

Bride, groom and Media all stringed

Then a toast was made with lao lao, to displeasure of the baby, who cried. Maybe it affects the flavour of the breast milk. An official produced some documents, gave a speech and handed the documents to be signed.

Khamsouk signing the marriage contract

When that was done, a few more formal photographs, then the bride went outside to feed her daughter Media, and everyone left to go to the reception site.

The bride feeding her daughter after the ceremony

Khmu khao poon

Khao poon (also spelt kao poon or kao pun) is a noodle dish widely made and consumed throughout Laos. This Khmu version with fermented soybean paste and minced pork was cooked by Khamsouk Philatorn, who used to make and sell it at the Luang Namtha Chinese market as a part time job while attending secondary school. The instructions below should make enough for about 30 people. Family and friends in Ban Chalensouk helped with all the chopping and shredding of the ingredients and with eating the finished product!

A serving of khao poon has four components:

  • Finely chopped or shredded vegetables, which are placed in the bottom of a big soup bowl
  • Hanks of soaked and drained khao poon noodles or rice vermicelli, which are added to the bowl
  • A spicy soup, ladled over the top to warm and partially cook the other ingredients
  • Condiments such as soy sauce, chilli sauce and lime which are added to the individual’s taste.

The whole lot is mixed together and eaten with chopsticks and a Chinese soup spoon.


1 large bunch yard-long beans

1 large bunch spring onion tops

1 large bunch mint

1 kg boiled bamboo shoots

1 big bunch coriander (cilantro)

2 – 4 banana flowers, outer petals removed

6 limes (2 for acidulating the banana flower water and the rest for individuals to add to their soup bowls)

3 -5 pieces  galangal root (big handful – the smaller rhyzomes are hotter and spicier)

3 heads garlic

One half to one handful of red chillies

2 onions

Khao poon noodles or rice vermicelli

1 C oil

1 kg coagulated blood or use 2 black puddings instead

1 kg minced fatty pork (You can use more mince pork if you like and cut down on the blood)

Generous half cup of fermented soybean paste (or make your own, see fermented soy bean paste)

Knorr (stock) powder and/or msg.

Prepared Khao poon vegetables

Prepared Khao poon vegetables

Step 1: Vegetable Platter preparation

(Get as many people to help as you can)
  1. Finely slice the bunches of yard-long beans and spring onion tops and  arrange beside each other on a big tray.
  2. Take 1 kg of boiled bamboo shoots, remove the tough outer leaves from the shoots and tease into fine shreds with a toothpick. Add to the tray.
  3. Chop the bunch of coriander (cilantro) and add to the tray.
  4. Pull the leaves off the mint and add to the tray.
  5. Finely shave the inner part of several banana flowers into a bowl of water to which a couple of squeezed limes have been added. Squeeze dry and add to the tray.
Pounded mixture for soup

Pounded mixture for soup

Step 2: Preparation of ingredients for the soup

  1. Finely slice several roots of galangal.
  2. Peel and finely slice the cloves of 3 heads of garlic.
  3. Finely chop  one half up to a handful of red chillies.
  4. Slice 2 onions vertically.
  5. Put the garlic and chilis in a mortar and pound thoroughly to a rough paste.

Preparing the noodles

Preparing the noodles

Step 3: Preparation of the noodles

  1. If you are using dried noodles, soak the khao poon noodles or rice vermacelli in warm water until soft. (khao poon noodles will need hotter water and will take linger than rice vermacelli.)
  2. When soft, use a chopstick to line up and remove a small hank of noodles from the water. Let drain, then use your hands to make into a tidy oval hank. Repeat, lay one hank overlapping the other to form a circle in a colander lined with banana leaf. Set aside. This step can be done while the soup is simmering.
  3. If using fresh noodles already in hanks, pour some warm water through them to refresh them, arrange them to suit on a banana leaf-lined sieve, and let drain until serving time.

Adding pork to the soup

Adding pork to the soup

Step 4: Assembling the soup

  1. Heat 1 cup of oil in a big pot.
  2. Add the pounded chili mixture and fry until golden and smelling sweetly fragrant.
  3. Add the galangal and onions and continue to brown.
  4. Add the minced pork and fry until it is well mixed, then add the fermented soybean paste. Brown all together, then top the pot up to two thirds with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste, and add Knorr and msg to suit. Continue to simmer for 30 more minutes.
  5. Adding the blood to the soup

    Adding the blood to the soup

  6. Cut the coagulated blood or blood sausage into 3 cm (1 1/4 in) cubes and add to the soup. Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes more until the blood has changed to a dark colour.

Step 5: Serving

  1. To serve, for each diner, place a small amount of all of the vegetables in the bottom of a deep soup bowl. Add one or two hanks of noodles. Spoon over the soup, making sure some of the minced pork and blood product are included.
  2. Make soya sauce, chili sauce, msg, salt and ground white pepper are available on the table so people can adjust their portion to suit their own taste.
    (N.B.: The family made their own weak soy sauce by boiling salted black soya beans in water, mashing them and decanting the liquid).
Khamsouk's younger brother eating khao poon

Khamsouk's younger brother eating khao poon

Kmhmu fish dishes (Khmu)

Food preparation by the men

Food preparation by Ban Chalensouk men

This article describes various Khmu fish dishes prepared by the men of Ban Chalensouk the morning after the party.
The farmed fish used are small tilapia – a sweet tasting freshwater fish much used in Laos and bought from the market that morning.

Three dishes were prepared and served with sticky rice – grilled fish flavoured with local herbs and chilli, a sour fish soup and a stew of spicy fish innards. The only thing not used from the fish were the scales. One bowl of fish thus served 20 plus people generously.

Fish for lunch

Tilapia - enough for 3 Kmhmu dishes

The fish were first of all scaled and gutted. The quantity was divided in two, one half to be grilled and the other half to be made into a soup. The guts were set aside for the stew.

Seasoning fish for grilling

Seasoning fish with pounded herbs for grilling

The fish to be grilled were plastered on one side with a pounded mixture of lemongrass, green chillies, galangal, lemon (hairy) basil (pak i tou Lao) and finely chopped spring onion. Salt and msg were added. After seasoning, each fish was folded crossways to enclose the filling and secured between two pieces of split bamboo (mai heep neep) ready for traditional grilling over the open wood fire.

Fish ready for grilling

Fish secured in mai heep neep ready for grilling

Fish grilling over embers

Fish grilling over embers, Kmhmu-style

The second portion of the fish was made into a mild sour fish soup (gaeng som pa) which had lemon grass, a few green chillies, onions, tomato, salt and msg added.

Sour fish soup

Sour fish soup and grilled fish Kmhmu-style (eyes included)

Preparing innard stew

Adding pak i tou Lao to stew

The guts were made into a stew flavoured with pak i tou Lao (bai manglaek (Thai),  lemon or hairy basil), chopped galangal, garlic, chillies, spring onions and fresh mak ken (a local version of Sechuan pepper).

Herbs all added and mixed together

Herbs all added and mixed together

Small cubes of coagulated pork blood were  added later.

fish dishes

Grilled fish, innards stew and sour fish soup

In all three dishes, msg and salt were the flavour-enhancers rather than fish sauce and Knorr stock powder, which are more recent influences. The food was delicious – the best grilled fish I’ve tasted!

Fish lunch in Ban Chalensouk

Fish lunch in Ban Chalensouk

Lao vegetable soop ຊຸບຜັກ soop pak

A soop resembles either a cooked vegetable salad or a thick, herby stew. This dish is more a salad. It can be made with a wide variety of steamed or lightly boiled vegetables. In fact, the sesame seeds are the only essential ingredient. Everything else may be varied. This dish is particularly delicious when sesame seeds are liberally used. Serves four to six people.

Lao vegetable soop ຊຸບຜັກ soop pak

Lao vegetable soop ຊຸບຜັກ soop pak


1 C Chinese cabbage, cut in small, loose leaf pieces 7 cm (2 – 3in)
1 C cauliflower flowerets (or other white vegetable)
3 fingers sized amount of bamboo shoots, pre-cooked, finely sliced (optional)
3 long beans, cut into 4 cm (1½ in) pieces (or 10 green beans)
1 bunch sawtooth herb, three fingers-width, tailed and cut in half  (or coriander leaves)
½ – 1 C collard greens (or bok choi ), cut in 4 cm (1½ in) pieces
2 – 3 stems dill, cut into 4 cm (1½ in) lengths
2 very large or 4 medium  oyster mushrooms, torn in 1 – 2 cm (½ in) wide shreds
1 large bowlful water with 1 teaspoon of salt for refreshing vegetables
½ large head garlic, strung on toothpicks or satay sticks for grilling
3 or more red chillies (amount to taste or omit), strung on toothpicks for grilling
2 thin slices galangal or ginger
2 T to ⅓ C sesame seeds, dry roasted. A mixture of white and black seeds is desirable, although white alone is fine.
2 T soy sauce, padek or fish sauce (or to taste)
8 C water


  1. Prepare the vegetables as described, placing the readied ones in a large bowl. Add water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Rinse vegetables in the brine, picking off any wilting pieces. Let soak briefly.
  2. Put fresh water into the bottom of a steamer or a sticky rice pot and bring to the boil.
  3. Toast the sesame seeds. Place in a mortar. Pound until most of the seeds are broken. Remove and set aside.
  4. Steaming vegetables of soop pak

    Steaming vegetables of soop pak

  5. When the water comes to the boil, tip the vegetables into the steamer, allow them to drain and then place the steamer over the boiling water. Steam for 10 – 15 minutes depending on preferred crispness.
  6. Roast the garlic and chillies. Cool. Remove their charred skins. Add the peeled garlic, chillies and galangal/ ginger to the mortar. Pound until a paste forms. Adding a dash of salt helps the blending.
  7. When the vegetables are ready, toss them briefly in the steamer to expel the steam. Invert the steamer over a low-sided, wide bowl. Let the vegetables cool. Sprinkle them with the pounded sesame seeds and the pounded galangal/ginger and garlic paste. Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Gently use your hands to mix the ingredients together well. Taste and adjust with sauce if needed.
  8. Turn into a serving bowl, garnish with coriander and serve as part of a Lao meal. This dish goes well with sticky rice or can be used as a picnic dish.


I had a request for a recipe for miang, which is basically a plate of small tasty bits and pieces such as ginger, garlic, roasted peanuts, shallots, lemon grass, dried shrimp, Lao sausage, star fruit, lime, toasted coconut, chillies, round eggplant, thin rice noodles, etc and some salad leaves to wrap up your personal selection before dipping it in a spicy sauce. I make a hot salty sour sweet sauce by simmering tamarind juice, padek or fish sauce depending on mood, chillies, salt and palm sugar, and diluted with water if its too strong and thick. Usually I just fling the dish together with whatever I have handy, but I decided to check out a few recipe books and websites for other food writers’ take on this highly variable snack.

My earliest recipe on file was a printout from the web back in 2001, from The recipe was translated by Aketawan Manowongsa from Mom Luang Nuang Nilaruttana; 1994; 14,28.

Miang Lao (Pork version from

Pork with slight amount of fat. Big dried shrimps, pounded or chopped and fried. Roasted peanuts. Fried shallots, Fried garlic, Ginger, Finely chopped tamarind, Fish sauce, Palm sugar, Oil, Tea leaves or Pickled lettuce, Hot chilies, Fried crispy rice, and Crisped pork fat. (I think he missed out either salt or fish sauce/padek as there is no salty ingredient in this list DLC)
Dice or coarsely chop the pork, then fry it in the pan and add some sugar, palm sugar. When the pork is done, put it in a bowl and mix it with finely chopped tamarind until it tastes sour. After the pork tastes 3 flavours; sour, salty and sweet. (Here’s where I think the salt or fish sauce would come in). Then mix it with pounded roasted peanut, finely pounded-crisped pork fat, finely pounded or fried dried shrimps, ginger, fried shallot, and fried garlic. When it has 3 flavours; sour, salty, and sweet, it is then ready for serve. Wrap it with Chiang Mai tea leaves or pickled lettuce but, surely, it doesn’t taste as good as wrapped in tea leaves. Eat it with fried crisped pork or, if preferred, chew it with hot chili.

 Next I looked up the heavy hitters of the cookbook world (well, in my opinion), Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s superbly put together “Hot Sour Salty Sweet: a culinary journey through Southeast Asia” Artisan, New York, 2000, which, by the way, is a MUST HAVE book for your bookshelf, and you can buy it on Amazon. Yep, they did not disappoint, featuring Hot and Spicy Leaf Wraps (miang kham, pp 264-5), Beef and Lettuce Roll-ups (Miang neua, p 68) and Green-wrapped flavor bundles with pork (miang lao, p 269). Phia Sing (Traditional Recipes of Laos), also available from Amazon  has a recipe for Miang Som Khai using fish eggs, pork, shrimp and fish. He describes how to make lacy egg skins, but if that is too much hassle suggests using salad leaves instead

From Eating Asia (Robyn Eckhardt, Freelance Food and Travel Writer and David Hagerman, Photographer, comes this wonderful blog about Thai miang, including a recipe for miang Lao.

Lao Voices features Luang Prabang miang muang Luang: . The post by LV has good photos of how to dry sticky rice for the miang. Below is an abbreviated version of the post, without the photos.

Miang Muang Luang (Sticky rice version from Lao Voices)

Preparing the sticky rice

For this recipe LV assumes that you know to cook sticky rice. It needs to be dried completely. This should take a few days when you are drying the rice inside. Start by breaking down the cooked sticky rice into tiny pieces on a bamboo tray or any tray and let the rice dry out. You’ll know when the rice has turned clear, it is ready to be deep fried. When you are ready to fry the dried rice, sort out the big pieces and using the mortar and pestle, gently break down the rice into smaller pieces. By doing so the rice would be easier to fry and taste better in the end.

 Making the Miang Mixture

  1. Deep fry the dried rice using vegetable, corn, or sunflower oil (your choice) until golden brown and let cool completely. Then using a blender, grind the rice popcorn into fine pieces.
  2. You’ll need the following ingredients: 2 cloves of garlic, two shallots, sugar, fish sauce, salt, monosodium glutamate/MSG (optional). Chop or grind the garlic and shallots. Add a teaspoon or two of oil (vegetable, corn, or sunflower) in a wok and fry the garlic and shallots until golden brown. Remove them from the oil. Add a tea spoon of sugar to the oil. When the sugar is golden brown, add water to the wok. The amount of water depends on the amount of ground rice that you have. This should be a 3 to 1 ratio, meaning 3 cups of water for one cup of ground rice. When you have the desired amount of water, then add fish sauce, salt, MSG, and more sugar until you get the taste you want.
  3. Add the ground rice gradually and stir the mixture constantly until you get a thick mixture that looks close to oatmeal. Remove the miang mixture from the pan and set aside for serving.


You’ll need the following ingredients: lemon grass, green egg plants (the small round ones), galangal, ginger, roasted peanuts, roasted dried chili peppers, lettuce, and phak i leut (wild pepper leaves, often called betel leaves). Slice lemon grass, green egg plants, galangal, and ginger into small serving pieces and place them next to roasted peanuts and roasted dried chili peppers.

Serve the wild pepper leaves alongside so that people can make their own miang. (You could also use lettuce leaves, or pickled cabbage leaves, and American Lao seem to be fond of spinach as a wrapper DLC).

 Other recipes for Miang can be found in Daovone Xayavong’s Taste of Laos  (Fresh spinach wraps, Miang Kam, p22).  And don’t forget “Lao Cooking and the Essence of Life” by Xaixana Champanakone (formerly Vincent Fischer-Zernin), his miang are on p 93.  Xaixana’s spirited book is an inspiration for creative cooks worldwide.

I can’t resist this Thai miang kam because of the yummy sauce.

Well, all this has made me hungry. Guess what snack I’m  now going to have!

Pun pa

Poon Pa (Pun Pa) Luang Namtha-style

I was shown a new recipe for pun pa at the Boat Landing on our last visit. This is spicier than the one in the Cookbook and also contains mashed simmered apple eggplants. If these are not at hand, use cubes of purple eggplant.

Pun pa

Poon pa, Luang Namtha-style

Simmering fish and eggplants

Simmering fish and eggplants


Peng pounding the fish and egpplants

Pun Pa 1.5

Pounding grilled ingredients

Pun pa 2

Peng adds pounded grilled ingredients to fish mixture

Cooking pun pa

Cooking poon pa

Poon Pa (pun pa) Luang Namtha-style, cooked by Peng


7 apple eggplants (or one purple eggplant, cut in 3 cm (1′) cubes
1 bulb garlic
3 shallots
5 green chillies (long and thin) threaded on a toothpick
1 small fish (cat fish, slippery stuff removed,  or tilapia)
2 C water
1 lemongrass stalk, bruised with the back of a knife
½ t salt for broth and another ½ t when frying mixture
1 T oil
1 T garlic, chopped
2 T soy sauce
Small handful mint and coriander leaves, chopped
Small handful spring onions, chopped

Vegetable accompaniment

1 thick wedge cabbage
2 wedges pumpkin or gourd
1 bunch Chinese greens (pak kaat kieow)


  1. Grill the garlic bulb, shallots and chillies over a charcoal fire, gas ring, barbeque or electric over grill, turning regularly.  Each ingredient will have a different cooking time. The garlic bulb, shallots and chillies are ready when blackened on the outside and softened on the inside. Remove ingredients to a plate when ready.
  2. Heat the water in a wok or frying pan and add salt and lemongrass. Bring to the boil and add the fish and eggplants. Simmer for 7 minutes and then remove from the stock when ready and set aside. (Be careful not to cook the fish for too long or the stock will gel. If the eggplants are not yet soft continue to simmer them after removing the fish.) Transfer the stock to a bowl for later use.
  3. In another pan set the vegetables to simmer in salted water. They should take about 15 minutes on a low heat once brought to the boil.
  4. Put the cooked eggplants into a mortar and pound to a pulp. Remove the skin and bones from the cooled fish and add it to the mortar. Pound.
  5. Peel the garlic, shallots and chillies and in a separate mortar, pound them to a fine paste. Add this paste to the fish mixture.
  6. Rinse the wok, reheat and add oil. When the oil is hot, toss in the chopped garlic and sauté until aromatic. Then add the fish mixture and soy sauce. Fry for a minute and spoon in some of the broth. Continue to fry the mixture on low heat for about 5 minutes in total. Taste and add salt and more soy sauce if needed. Mix in the chopped mint, coriander and spring onions. Taste and make any final adjustment to the flavours.


Pork and bamboo shoot soup and other feast food at Ban Chalensouk

The next few posts will be about the party in Ban Chalensouk, a Kmhmu (khmu, kamu, khamu) village about 20 km south of Luang Namtha township in Northern Laos on Route 3 to Bokeo. This is Khamsouk’s village and she was organising a big celebration after returning from her successful Vientiane studies. In part, it was held to honour us as her study sponsors, but also I think, to make a statement to others that Khamsouk was returning to her village well educated and grown up – the first university graduate of village with her own local shop and a baby on the way. It was a two pig celebration (having encouraged her to spare the cow). I have a soft spot for cows, coming originally from a New Zealand dairy farm. (I didn’t know until my 20’s that the beef we ate could be female as well as male – I’d always thought after a life of giving milk, cull cows were sold for pet food – duh!).

We arrived by motorbike around 9 am, and the bamboo shoot and pork soup was already bubbling away. The bamboo shoots were from the forest and the pigs – well, they had been dispatched early in the morning and were sliced and diced well before we arrived. For details of this process, at an earlier celebration a few years before in the same village, visit Kees’ website in PBase.

Here is the outdoor kitchen, with the soup brewing:

Pork and bamboo soup cooking

Pork and bamboo soup cooking on wood fires

And inspecting the soup:

Pork and bamboo shoot soup

Pork and bamboo shoot soup

Upstairs, which is usually the village official meeting place, the other dishes were being assembled by the women:

Preparing soop pak and lahp for 60+ people

Preparing soop pak and sa (a Northern-style lahp) for 60+ people

For the soop pak (steamed vegetable salad with galangal and sesame seeds), freshly picked and steamed vine shoots, flowers, berries, leaves and gadawm gourds (mak gadawm or mak noi) formed the main ingredients:

green vegetables for soop pak

green vegetables for soop pak

Pounded finely chopped galangal (tasting it I think that there was a fair wallop of Knorr or salt added to help the breaking down process), freshly pounded roasted chillies, msg and pounded roasted local sesame seeds were added and everything was mixed together:

Mixing soop pak while the other women make lahp

Mixing soop pak while the other women make sa

Rice noodles for lahp

Rice noodles for sa

The sa (spicy pork salad) meat had already been chopped finely and lightly fried with a bit of oil in a wok then left to cool. Rice vermicelli had  been soaked and drained and banana flowers finely shaved. The amount of shaved banana flower was roughly the same as the amount of cooked minced pork.

Pounding cooked sa meat

Pounding cooked minced pork for sa

One woman pounded the fried minced meat to a finer consistency. I’d never seen this done before. I tried it a few days ago making lahp for some visitors and it gave a lovely fine texture to it (although I like it coarse as well). Also, two handfuls of medium-sized green chillies were finely sliced. Salad herbs were prepared – a mix of finely shredded spring onions and small coriander leaves (cilantro). Now came the assembly process. First the pounded pork and banana flower were thoroughly mixed and kneaded together with the sliced chillies and some of the meat juice.

Cutting noodles into the sa

Cutting noodles into the sa

The rice vermicelli (or maybe the noodles were bean threadsit wouldn’t matter which, but bean threads wouldn’t break up as much) was cut into smaller pieces about 4 – 5 cm long (2″) and lightly mixed in. No pounded roasted rice or lime juice was added, but salt and msg were. The herbs were added last of all and everything lightly mixed together, then served up  garnished with more herbs on small plates at the table.

Mixing the lahp

Mixing the sa

Here is our breakfast, with the soop pak and sa made from the feast ingredients. A soup (gaeng) is also added and the banana leaves contain freshly steamed sticky rice, grown locally.

Breakfast, the one after breakfast and before lunch

Breakfast, the one after breakfast and before lunch! gaeng gai (chicken soup), soop pak (steamed vegetable salad), sa moo (pork sa) and khao niao (sticky rice)

And one table of the post baci feast, before eating:

One table of feast food

One table of feast food, with (from left) soop pak, sticky rice, pork sa and bamboo shoot & pork soup.

Review on “”

Just received the latest review by Chris Walker:

The Boat Landing Cookbook is as much a travelogue as an encyclopaedia of every culinary tradition of Northern Laos.”

“………….. this book is as much about archiving the lives and values of the population of Northern Laos as it is about preserving its culinary heritage. A couple of hours in the company of this book will have even those who are strangers to the inside of a kitchen booking a flight to Laos.”






Sour pumpkin soup with mushrooms ແກງ ໜາກອຶໃສ່ສົ້ມແລະ ເຫັດເຟືອງ gaeng mak eu leh het feuang sai som

Here’s a Lao recipe for a refreshing soup that goes well when a deep-fried dish is part of the meal. Soups (gaeng or keng) are eaten as the same time as other dishes, not served first.

Sour pumpkin soup with mushrooms

Sour pumpkin soup with mushrooms


½ small chicken, chopped into soup pieces (or thigh and wing piece)
1 l (5 C/ 2 pt)  water
2 C green pumpkin, cut into bite-size chunks (substitute any firm squash)
1 C straw mushrooms (or torn oyster mushrooms, button mushrooms)
4 chillies
3 cloves garlic
1 t salt
2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 10 cm (4 in) lengths and roughly bruised to release flavour
2 – 3 slices galangal
5 small kaffir lime leaves
3 limes, juiced
2 – 3 T fish sauce (or to taste)

To finish

3 small spring onions, washed and trimmed of old leaves
3 small coriander plants, washed and trimmed of old leaves


  1. In a medium pot, bring the water to the boil. Add the chicken pieces and return to the boil. Skim scum. Lower the heat and simmer the chicken for 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin, lemongrass, galangal and the kaffir lime leaves. Continue to simmer gently.
  2. In a mortar, pound together the chillies and the garlic. Stir into the soup. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms. Continue to simmer until the chicken is tender and the pumpkin is cooked. Add the lime juice and fish sauce. Taste and adjust flavourings, adding possibly more salt or lime juice. The predominant taste should be sour with a contrast of sweetness from the pumpkin and nuttiness from the mushrooms.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat. Chop the spring onions and coriander together and stir them into the soup. Transfer the soup to a bowl and serve.

Steamed green beans with sawtooth herb and either ginger or sesame seeds ຊຸບໝາກຖົ່ວຍາວ soop mak tua nyaow

Here’s an ethnic variation on the common Lao food, soop pak. Muang Sing villagers operating the community-based ecotourism trekking business Akha Experience taught The Boat Landing staff this recipe when they trained at the guest house in July 2005. Traditionally, this Akha salad is made with either ginger or sesame seed, but never both. Each version is delicious and great served warm or cold.

Steamed green beans with sawtooth herb

Steamed green beans with sawtooth herb

Serves two to four depending on the number of accompanying dishes.


250 g (½ lb) green beans, topped and tailed; use long, string or French beans
12 cloves garlic, roasted and peeled; cook the entire head before peeling the required cloves
1 piece ginger, thumb-size, roasted and peeled (if not using sesame seeds)
2 – 3 T sesame seeds (if not using ginger)
2 – 3 T light soy sauce
1 t salt
2 t fish sauce
2 T mint leaves, chopped
2 T sawtooth herb, chopped (or substitute coriander, see below)
2 T spring onion, white stalk and greens, finely chopped
1 T Vietnamese mint leaves, chopped
2 T small coriander plants, stalk and leaves, chopped (use only if Vietnamese mint is not available; use a larger amount if sawtooth herb isn’t available)


  1. Slice the beans diagonally or halve them. Steam the vegetable for a few minutes until lightly cooked. Remove to a mixing bowl.
  2. Dry roast the sesame seeds until golden. Remove them before completely browned. Set aside to cool.
  3. Put the peeled, roasted garlic cloves and salt in a mortar. Slice the roasted ginger if using. Add to the mortar. Pound the ingredients together until well-integrated. Tip this mixture over the beans.
  4. Add the soy and fish sauce and gently mix into the salad by hand. Add the chopped mint, sawtooth herb and coriander.
  5. Add the dry roasted sesame seeds if using and gently mix in by hand.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a serving dish.


  • Be a non-traditional hedonist and use both sesame seeds and ginger. The taste is great!
  • Complete your Akha experience by serving the beans with Akha pork balls, ginger chicken soup, sawtooth herb jeow and sticky rice (all in the book, Food from Northern Laos).