Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tamarind Cooking Class in Luang Prabang

I took a lot of cooking classes while in Asia,
but the most memorable class is without a doubt the one I took with the instructors at Tamarind restaurant in Luang Prabang.

I am not the biggest fan of Laotian food,
but the unique experience that Tamarind's cooking class offered
was as delicious as a meaty slab of ribs!

Before we headed out to the kitchen site, 
we made a quick stop to the town's center market. 

Refrigeration is almost nonexistent in Southeast Asia, 
so the inventory consisted of only produce and 
protein harvested earlier that morning.    

I'm sure you can imagine my excitement 
when the instructor informed us that we were 
allowed to select one unusual item 
to cook during class.  

My ears immediately perked up.

The opportunity to pick something from a market  
that would have made Whole Foods feel not so whole
just tickled me silly.  

Vats of stinky, fishy, intensely flavored fermented fish. MmmmMMmm...

Giddy, I knew exactly what I wanted to cook. I've seen this ingredient plenty of times while strolling the streets of Chinatown, but I had no clue how to use it.


"Are you sure?"



After I handed him my toad, I began to roam the 
market with wide eyeballs and inflamed 
nostrils taking in the vibrant colors and  
inhaling unappreciated smells

We then regrouped, gathered the rest of the 
ingredients needed and hopped onto the back of a pickup truck. 

After spending 45 minutes turning and swerving down   
bumpy nameless dirt roads, 
we parked near a desolate open area 
in the middle of a jungle.

Alongside swaying banana trees and giggling monkeys 
sat our kitchen. 

 And our oven!

Before we started cooking, the instructor 
asked me if I wanted to butcher my own LIVE frog.  
I have YET to kill any other animal at this point, 
so I lowered my head in shame and declined.

Seriously, though. 
The job of butchering a live frog seemed a bit daunting.

Here's another picture of my lonely frog.

One more. 

I really need to learn not play with my food.

The frog meat was used in the Laotian version of Amok.  
The difference between Cambodian Amok and Laos Amok 
is that the Laotian curry does not include 
the addition of coconut milk.

Other dishes that we made that day 
included a Chicken Lemongrass pop...

and of course dessert! 

Black rice steamed in coconut milk served 
with tropical fruit.  

Because of my raging sweet tooth
this was my favorite of all.

Chicken Lemongrass Pops
I chose to feature this recipe because I'm fairly certain people  are not into buying live frogs to cook and eat.  However, if you are feeling adventurous, give me a holler and I will gladly send you the recipe! 

12 stalks of lemongrass
5 cloves of garlic
4-6 spring onions
1/2 – 3/4 cup of fresh coriander
1 kaffir lime leaf
teaspoon of salt
1/2 pound of minced chicken

Preparing the Lemongrass

1. Using a small sharp knife, start cutting about 1cm from the base of the lemongrass stem. Make cuts lengthwise through the stalk about 4-5cm in length – without letting the cuts reach either the base or the cut top end of the stalk.  

2. Rotate the lemongrass and repeat the cuts at small intervals, until the outer stalk are separated – basket-like – creating a central hole for the filling.


1. All of these ingredients except the minced chicken are pounded in a mortar and pestle, then the minced chicken is added and mixed well.

2. The next step is to push a spoonful of the mixture into the central core of each stalk, then shape and smooth it out with your hands.

3. Dip the stuffed lemongrass in beaten egg (you’ll need two eggs) and fry them in a wok (stalks protruding and resting on the side so they can be easily withdrawn) until the meat is browned and cooked.

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