By Anna Lindblom
One Saturday night field staff member Sam arranged for some Lao teachers to accompany volunteers to have a Lao-style dinner
This was an exciting new experience for most of us because we were new arrivals (at the time) and not yet familiar with the Lao culture.
They took us to a local restaurant which was like a big open terrace with a roof but no walls. It was nicely lit up by colourful lights. We put together some tables so we could sit all together to eat Lao (communal) style.
We left the teachers to order for us and we had a few different dishes, 3 of each, and shared them. This was a good idea because there’s often only one or two chefs in the kitchen, so if everyone orders different dishes you never get the food at the same time. In this way we ate one dish after another. As we had finished one of the meals, the next one was ready. We enjoyed grilled fish, friend and stir-fried vegetables, duck ribs, rice and tom yum chicken soup.
In Laos they usually grill the whole fish and you eat its skin too. That’s actually delicious because that’s where the flavour is.
The chicken soup was a bit scary, because they use all parts of the chicken – the feet as well as the whole head (with the comb and the beak!). We all cheered in frightened delight when one Lao teacher, Xay, cut up the chicken head and ate its tongue. None of us were keen on trying it though!
After I thought we’d eaten every part of the fish we could eat I looked away and 5 minutes later the whole head was gone! Another teacher, Chan Sipheng, had eaten it all! He offered to taste the fish eye, a Lao delicacy, which one of the volunteers did. Emma chewed it for a while then looked surprised and spit out a hard bit….apparently the cornea is a bit crunchy! She said it had a horrible taste and a strange, jelly-like consistency. But Lao people love the eye over any other part. There was no fighting over it at our table!
We shared some bottles of Beer Lao, and two guys playing guitar created a really nice, authentic Lao ambience.