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Cookbook Review - Food From Northern Laos: The Boat Landing Cookbook

Author: Dorothy Culloty (Photography: Kees Sprengers)
Cuisine: Lao

Reviewed By: Chris Hornbeck

Food From Northern Laos: The Boat Landing Cookbook is a culinary journey into one of the forgotten places of Asia; an ethnically diverse province in Northern Laos called Luang Namtha, a community of subsistence-farming and simple rural lifestyle. Bordered by both Burma and China, Luang Namtha province is home to over 29 ethnic groups, only a small minority of Lao descent, the blending of which provides a unique local variation on the themes of the cuisine of Northern Laos and Luang Prabang.

The Boat Landing is an eco-lodge and restaurant located on the Nam Tha river in Luang Namthat. The authors spent 7 years working with employees of the lodge, local villagers, and friends to develop an inside look at an interesting and extraordinary food culture. Well-researched sections include an extensive exposition on rare ingredients, of which there are many in Lao cooking, in-depth discussion of Lao cooking techniques (with great photos), and a thorough history of the region and its peoples. Learn about interesting ingredients such as mai sakahn, a forest wood with a peppery flavor, and exotic dishes such as aw lahm (or lam) and tofu lahp. The book also contains great chapters on jeows (Lao dipping sauces essential at every meal), soups, salads, and more; all, of course, served with the ubiquitous staple food of the region, sticky rice.

We love Lao cuisine and highly recommend this cookbook for anyone interested in learning more about this wonderful culuture and its food. The photographs are amazing, truly capturing the essence of the people, their daily lives, and especially their wide and varied diets. We must mention that not all of the recipes in this book are vegetarian. The people of Laos are mostly subsistence farmers who, by nature, are almost exclusively omnivorous, though vegetarianism is not unheard of due to the region's Buddhist roots. The large majority of the recipes from this book can be easily translated to vegetarian version through the use of tofu, vegetables, or other meat substitutes.

You can pick up a copy of the cookbook at Amazon.com and visit the authors' website at www.foodfromnorthernlaos.com.

Check out this recipe for Akha Beans from the cookbook!