Sep 26, 2007

Kai Yo Ma, (eggs of horse)

What’s a Wat doing on a blog entry about rotten eggs? I just liked the way it looked, and I haven’t used this photo before. Photos of rotten eggs aren’t so inviting.

The wat has a tin roof but still has the tiered parts at the top. If I knew anything about wats I could probably say this is Thai Lu style or something. I like the wat in that it has nought to do with being an attraction yet. It was a quiet day, no one about. I walked behind it to do the first of two river crossings to get to the crags at the far side of the valley. Lot of kids playing in the river, a few people washing clothes.

I sure didn’t see any kai yo ma in Muang Long. There were Chinese people there and if you want kai you ma you have to have Chinese people, it’s Chinese food.

I looked all over the market for one of those tin cups with a lid that you see all over China. I was about to head out for a walk and wanted something to make my morning coffee in. A lot of the traders were recent immigrants from China. I finally found a porcelain cup with a broken handle and asked one of the vendors how much, he just gave it to me.

I like Chinese people, not just because they give me things for free, but because of the way they are. They push. they shout, they spit, they bargain hard. Sometimes the sound of Mandarin is music to my ears. People say Chinese food is swimming in oil, well so it is, tastes great. The Chinese are gregarious, and you could never have a better friend.

I learned to eat kai you ma in China. I used to live in a town that was in it’s infancy as far as being on the tourist trail. That part of China had just recently opened up to foreign travel. I too was in my infancy of learning foreign languages and of living in Asia. I was still eating at restaurants that had English menus. Regardless of the menu, the restaurants were frequented by the Chinese. I saw someone eating the eggs and asked for the same. They were pretty good. Later I asked some friends and they got some for me. I was astonished when I saw the outside.

Notice the grey looking stuff on the outside? I was told that’s caked on ashes. The story goes that the reason they are called horse eggs is that they are made by caking them in straw ashes that has been wetted with horse piss. Certainly an evocative origin for something that smells like death warmed over.

I took this picture in Luang Namtha at the well stocked market there. They look just like the eggs I used to eat in Yunnan and they tasted like them too. Fairly mild and a yellow tending to green in colour on the inside. Delicious.

Remember my qualifier. I won’t eat any food that doesn’t taste good to me at the time I eat it. I know often Lao people don’t eat these eggs, I assume it’s because they weren’t brought up eating them. New things are difficult even for a people who eat padek.

These eggs are like the kind I found in Taiwan and are the only kind I’ve been able to find in America. They are pretty strong. I wash the outsides off with water and that seems to kill some of the sulphurous odour. I also eat them with a sauce made of nam sii you, macpet, and cilantro. The chillies are actually that sauce you make by toasting dried chillies in oil. And of course I use kao neeow to scoop them up with.

Sun Saap

Sep 22, 2007

Yam Salat

Crushing the freshly toasted peanuts in the koke

Yam salat has to be one of the few true vegetarian dishes in Laos, that is if you don’t throw in any pork, and you can overlook those undeveloped chicken embryos.

It’s now the end of the summer and all of the garden seems to be reaching it’s prime at the same time. Almost all of the vegetables for this salad were home grown. The tomatoes are ripening so fast we are having to freeze many of them for the cold winter months and the seeds from the celery that Creagy poured into the garden while no one was looking has given us a mini celery forest. The lettuce is the second crop that my wife started back in mid August to take advantage of the cool fall days. The cilantro just keeps coming up, as long as we remember to let some go to seed and to turn it over into the soil. Cucumbers have been appearing regularly since the beginning of August. The green onions we dig up and replant when they get too bitter, somehow the first shoots from onions are sweetest.

Above is some of the celery. This variety is from Laos, it never forms the stalks we are familiar with in the United States. It’s only grown for the leaves which are eaten as a leafy vegetable, great in soups.

Behind the celery is the leaf lettuce in clumps. This batch started off slow in the heat of the summer. The lettuce from the spring was a lot larger.

In this sauce I think there were four eggs used. They are hardboiled, the yolks are set aside for the dressing and the whites are sliced into the salad. Besides this big spoonful of squeezed lime juice there’s also a quarter cup of water, some bang nua, and a little salt.

On top of everything else is some toasted crushed peanuts. The peanuts come uncooked and unsalted, I guess from the Vietnamese grocery where we buy everything else. I don’t know why but peanuts quickly lose their fresh toasted taste. Best to cook them just before making the salad.

Not mentioned is mon pao, a crunchy white tuber that is often sliced thin and added for it’s texture as well as it’s sweet apple like taste. (sorry don't know English name) We didn’t have any. People also use any sort of salad green they have, water cress is popular. I’ve never seen nam pa, hot peppers, or garlic of any kind. Sometimes bits of pork. Moo sam san lightly fried is great. Of course just after I posted this a friend told me he has had yam salat with nam pa, I asked my Lao consultant and she said yes some people mix it into the sauce.

(notice the celery greens?)

The peanuts are sprinkled over the salad, the sauce is poured on, everything is tossed to get good coverage, and voila, yam salat.

Also…. A lot of times I eat the salad hours after it’s made, or even the next day. The greens wilt and give up their juices quickly so that the whole salad is swimming in the much thinner sauce. I love it. I even drink down the sauce from the bowl as long as no one is looking. This drunken salad affect is how I’ve most often bought yam salat in Laos served up out of trays at the buffet at the airport, or in bags at the Luang Prabang night food market.

A lot of these photos I’ve taken at the high ISO setting. I get sick of trying to hand hold at 1/5th of a second. Sometimes 800 sometimes a thousand or 1600. For you purists,, sorry.

Sun Saap

Sep 9, 2007

Tiger Meat for Sale

A couple weeks ago my news filter picked up this story about tigers because it was thought the tigers came from Laos. Subsequent stories identify the countries of origin as Burma and India. Who knows.

From Thanhien News dot com. “ On September 4 the police raided two houses in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan district, both rented by Nguyen Thi Thanh, and seized two disemboweled, adult tigers from freezers.

They also found two tiger skins and bones and parts besides five bear arms, eight pairs of ox horns, two pairs of stag horns, and two pairs of elephant tusks.

Thanh and her henchmen were arrested at the scene.

Thanh confessed that the gutted tigers were from Myanmar and India and their bone marrow was sold for VND6.5 million (US$400) per gram to traditional doctors for curing rheumatism and other joint ailments.

Thanh and her gang extracted the marrow in the two houses.”

A couple of days later I was listening to the radio and heard a story about a Chinese company that has been raising tigers and freezing the carcases in hopes that some day it will be legal to sell the farm raised ones.

Why not? If people are willing to pay $400 a gram to eat cat marrow I’d say let them. Myself I’ve never had too much desire to eat cat. I’ve heard grizzly bear is pretty good, and I’d give it a try, but cat? Grizzlies also aren’t an endangered species also.

Along that same vein I’ve heard that because of global warming polar bears might not be native to Alaska any more. The bears live on the Ice cap, using the land only to den up and have cubs. They are the only bear that doesn’t hibernate, loves the cold. Because of the shrinking ice cap the open lead of water in the summer might become to great for them to get close to the Alaska coast line.

Footprints out on to the shore ice.

I spent the winter of 89/90 working in the bear’s habitat where the shore ice meats the coast. Much of the time we were walking on the snow and very fearful of seeing a bear. From a totally unscientific source I’ve heard that the polar bear upon seeing a human begins to stalk it, we are food.

Don’t know how I’ve strayed so far from Laos. To bring it on back to the semi tropics, I don’t really care if I see a tiger in the wild or not. I have no desire to be dinner. Don’t even care that much about the species. I mean isn’t a leopard big enough to fill that ecological niche? Doesn’t much matter, as it looks as if Laos is going to be turned into a giant rubber plantation for it’s neighbours.

Sep 1, 2007

Thatdam (Black Stupa)

I like the Black Stupa in that it is a historical Tat that is simply in the middle of a roundabout in the middle of a busy town. No one selling postcards or pictures. You don’t have to make a special trip, you pass by it on your daily travels. It hasn’t been plated with gold or in any other way refurbished to buff up it’s appearance. It just is.

There is now a kind of upmarket boutique guesthouse on one side of the circle, a sign of things to come?, but much of the neighbourhood remains the unchanged. On the East down a soi is the entrance to the US embassy, no parking anywhere close by. The guards will direct you elsewhere, and at the entrance to the soi a dilapidated old colonial house.

I like the grass and bushes growing out of the cracks, lends that “lost in the jungle” type feel. It’s on Chanta Khooumane just north of the mini mart on Thanon Samsethai. I took this photo from well back by the school so to include as many wires as possible.

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