The photo above I "borrowed" from a review on a shutterbug web site called Bangkok Images. More than likely it's a photo by Kees Sprengers and it's in the book.
Two people associated with the Boat Landing, a husband and wife team of cook and writer Dorothy Culloty and photographer Kees Sprengers have written what sounds like an extremely comprehensive book on Lao cooking. They also have a web site with a similar address that is well worth putting on your favorites list and stopping back for a look see every once in a while. The web address is http://www.foodfromnorthernlaos.com/
Kees alerted me to the upcoming release of his book but I've been negligent in giving it the promotion it deserves. What can I say, it's hunting season, election season, and I'm a procrastinator. Also I didn't have a copy and I'm real shy to broach the subject of shelling out some cash for a book about something my wife does all the time.
What I did today was put it on the request list at my library, I'd urge you to do the same. They almost always honor requests to buy books and doing so accomplishes two good things. It puts santang in the hands of Dorothy and Kees in the form of book sales, and it introduces Lao food to a wider audience. I know where I live all the affluent yups with time on their hands like nothing better than to buy a whole bunch of new cooking paraphernalia and a book with tons of gorgeous ethnic photos to go along. If only it included a music tape of Bhudist chants in Pali from a Tai Lue temple complete with giant cymbal clashes and drums. Well maybe some morlum for mood music. I digress.
How to write a review about a book I haven't seen? I didn't quite have the gall to email Kees and suggest he send me a copy. Thankfully it's all been done for me by Vienne that Lao chef in Spain with the great web site. He's read the book and gives it a much more thorough review than anything I've seen yet. http://laocook.com/2010/10/01/food-from-northern-laos-the-boat-landing-cookbook/ after reading Vien's review and shouting out the good parts to my wife as she was packing the kids off to bed I now have official permission to buy.
Often when my wife cooks foods that she is apt to repeat she takes note of amounts of ingredients and writes them down correcting herself when she adds more or less, eventually she knows exactly how much of what to make say the noodles for Kao Piak or a Gaeng Keowan. She shares the ingredients lists freely with her friends but not the amounts as Lao people are used to a much less measured system. Some secrets are harder than others to give up. Thankfully Dorothy holds nothing back. This book will be a new source of ideas, all written down with measurements even!
There is of course one question that will have to wait until I have the book.
There is that one ingredient that all Lao people use in almost everything they cook. It is the ingredient that no westerner will ever admit to using, the ingredient foodies don't even like to talk about, the ingredient that can change a dish from simply "very delicious" to "saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap!!". How do they handle the ingredient so controversial, so, well, downright sinful, that we dare not speak it's name? The ingredient that I've seen in use in every different ethnic village, the ingredient I've seen in use, in ubiquitous use, in villages so remote that some residents have never seen a road or car.
Will they deny it's use? "Oh that's not "real" traditional Lao food". Ignore it completely? List it as an option?
I'll have to wait for the book.