Not all adventures of cuisine are good. You remember China. Now let me tell you about Laos.
The last night of our motor-bike adventure we stayed at a local homestay near the Konglor Caves. I have no idea how this got set up, but there seems to be some sort of local cooperative running a homestay program- tourists just show up at the boat dock and ask for a homestay. Laos maintains most of its cultural traditions and signs all over the country instruct tourists on acceptable behavior. We were interested in finding out what it was like to be in a traditional Laos home and of course the food.
Wait, this is foodie friday, right? Alright I’ll skip to the “good” part. We knew dinner would be an event, the best food on this whole trip has been at home-cooking and we expected this to be no exception. My sister is a vegetarian, but she’s not too strict, especially when faced with being a gracious guest in someone’s home. Dinner was already cooking on a fire when we arrived at the wooden house, but when I went to make friends with “mama” in the kitchen I was quickly shooed to the outhouse in the backyard. I guess she thought I was looking for the toilet…
Dinner was served on a special metal tray and it was clear from the get-go that we were being treated as honored guests. The family was wonderful to us and having read up on Laos table manners and customs we were pretty confident we’d impress them or at least not make any serious faux-pas that would send our hosts over the edge.
Baskets of rice, bowls of unidentifiable stews and vegetables were laid out in front of us. Digging in, my first bite wasn’t so rewarding. In fact it was awful. A blended grizzle of meat, bones and definitely organs, the cold meat stew-like dish tasted like rotten dirt and made me want to vomit in my mouth. Grabbing a handful of rice, which interestingly enough they roll in a ball and dip just like African’s do with n’sima, I tried to get it down. Trying desperately to swallow as my eyes watered and my natural gag reflex kicked in, I was horrified that I might actually spit out the food. Pretending to pick bones out of my mouth, I got most of it down or on the plate without incident. In fact I did so well that Danny didn’t even notice my choking, gagging or watery eyes. Needless to say, I was hesitant to go for the veggies, but with the grandfather pushing the plate at me over and over again there was nothing I could do but dip my ball of rice in. This time it wasn’t so bad and although it was far from delicious I got a few soaked rice balls down.
Becka somehow got through the meal without touching the “cold brown meat sludge.” Danny wasn’t so fortunate and since he missed my theatrics he also succumb to our hosts and tried it. Fortunately he was more cautious than I was and only dipped a small bit of rice in the sludge before declaring himself full.
I’ll never know what the cold, brown, meat sludge was, but if I EVER see it again I’ll be sure to run. I can’t say I’ll be looking for a Laotian restaurant in DC…