Aug 18, 2007


Obe on the stove ready for a long simmer

It’s hard for me to start talking about obe without first trying to explain how to say it. I always thought it was pronounced ope like in the word dope but without the d. I don’t think we have a short b sound in English as in obe. The b really is a b, as in baw beh the sound for goat in the lao alphabet, it’s just that the sound is so short we have nothing to compare. I get away with it when I say ope.

Anyway obe is made from meat and is mostly meat. I’ve had it made from all different kinds of meat but it lends itself to wild meat, the spices are strong. I’d imagine porcupine, rabbit, raccoon, and all those other critters would do just fine, especially with the bones cut up along with the meat, lets the flavour out.

Mule deer looking young and tender in velvet

Above is a mule deer, affectionately known as a muley. I don’t like deer as much as elk, the deer is a little gamey tasting making it a prime candidate for ope .In Laos I’ve also had ope made from civet. I’ve heard it’s made from all the usual wild foods especially tough meats, and animals with a lot of bones. By chopping the bones across the ribs and cutting the backbone into pieces a lot of the good juices are released into the sauces.


This piece of venison (deer meat) was given to me by an old friend of mine last week. I’ve known him for probably twenty five years, since we were both pretty young guys. Being a farm boy he was familiar with butchering animals and we used to take advantage of the many road kills on the sides of the highway. Nowadays he uses a big old 300 magnum that seems to drop just about anything he points it at.

Shallots Garlic Lemon grass

The fresh spices for this batch were lemon grass sliced very thin so that you can eat it, shallots, garlic and bai kii hoot, (kafir leaf). Our lemon grass has matured enough to have the thick stalks that you need to actually eat the stuff, most other years we plant it too late and all we can use is the grassy parts in soup. The bai kii hoot is from our house plant that we’ve had for a few years, in the winter we bring it in and it becomes a house plant.

Lemon grass in a pot

Bai kii hoot

Tumeric powder, dried kha, bai kii hoot

Normally kah (galangal) is fresh also. While in Laos my wife bought a few kilos and dried it, the customs police decided that it was ok so we now have a couple years supply of the stuff. The dried stuff from Thailand in a jar labelled “curry powder” is that yellow spice that Kohn Kak and Malaysians use, I think it’s turmeric.

Stove cranked up to high

The cooking method is obvious and simple. The dried stuff is pulverized in the coke, the wetter lemon grass, garlic, and shallots are added then lastly some naman hoi, (oyster sauce) bang nuwa, some nam see yu and the bai kii hoot. The cubed meat is kneaded into the sauce then quick fried at a high heat in the bottom of a pot stirring constantly.

Ope ready for the long simmer

After a couple of minutes the heat is turned down as low as it will go and a little water is added as needed to keep things from burning. With an occasional stir the pot is left cooking for an hour or two or three until the meat is tender.


chaskemp said...

Hi Somsai,
I hope you have a way to keep hard copies of all this - words and photos. It's a treasure.

Somchai said...

Thanks Charles, you are welcome to stop by for some porcupine obe any day of the week.

chaskemp said...

Well, uh, thanks, but ... I didn't say I wanted to EAT it - I just think the writing and photos are treasures. I'll bring a fajita taco.

Craig said...

I've never even come across this dish in a home or on a menu, let alone eaten it.

Is it regional?

Somchai said...

I asked my Lao consultant about it and she replied that no it’s not regional or known by other names as far as she knows.

The other time I had it was in Luang Namtha but cooked up by some guys from Luang Prabang. They were ethnically Lao Loum. Being as they were cooking civet cat none of the women cooked or ate it. Supposedly it’s bad for women, especially as two of the women were nursing. I wouldn’t normally eat civet but it was cooked and offered, I asked the guys at the local trekking office to translate the name of the animal as I didn’t know what it was. When I saw the carcass it was already missing it’s hair, claws, and head. It did have a long tail.

The consistency of the ope was the same, bits of meat amongst a pasty sauce. The taste was overwhelmingly of kafir leaf. (bai kii hoot). I’ve also had it made of beef ribs but all the sauce becomes overwhelmingly greasy and not too appetizing.

Young said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Somchai said...

mozz said,

love the post somsai, never heard of the dish. what's the final product looked like? did you shoor bambi?

but inadvertantly included some of his personal info,, and on blogger dot com you can't edit comments, so I copied, erased, and posted

Somchai said...

The finished product is dark brown chunks of meat with a pasy sauce. I'll wait until next time, take a photo, and post.

Bambi in the photo was down in the burbs, I took the photo while working. I mostly eat beef, not much time for hunting, sigh, maybe soon. It's that time of year.

I heard that obe gatai (rabbit)uses the leaf of mac sii dah, the fruit known in Thai as falang. I had no idea you could eat the leaves of the tree.

Obe is an everyman's food for wild game. That's probably why it's not on restaurant menus of say the better restaurants that do have a lot of authentic Lao food, as in Luang Prabang. In America you never see beef stew on the menu, but everyone has a recipe passed down from parents.

I'm going to turn the comment moderation filter off and hope for no more political flames.