Southeast Asia is a haven for foodies. Visitors everywhere flock to experience the hawker centres of Malaysia and the Pad Thai vendors of Thailand. However, little old Laos is often overlooked, overshadowed by its bigger and more famous neighbours!
Despite this, you shouldn’t just forget about Laotian cuisine. There are plenty of delicious treats to get you drooling in Laos, you just need to find them!
So, how can you find a true taste of Laos? Well, why not sign up for a Luang Prabang cooking class? This is perhaps the best way to immerse yourself into the culinary culture of a country whilst having heaps of fun and of course, getting to eat loads of yummy food!
Time to Indulge in a Luang Prabang Cooking Class!
Luang Prabang is becoming increasingly popular and as a result, western favourites are becoming more and more prominent on menus. Whilst we all need a bit of home comfort food occasionally, the abundance of these dishes can make it tricky to discover the local food scene. You could say, you can’t see the Oua Si Khai for the pizza and pasta!
If it’s a traditional, hands-on cooking experience that you’re after, then look no further than Tamarind Cooking School. Whilst in Luang Prabang, I was lucky enough to take part in Tamarind’s cooking class and it completely opened my eyes to how amazing Laotian food is!
Who are Tamarind Cooking School?
Tamarind: A Taste of Laos is a family-run restaurant and cooking school on the banks of the Mekong River in the laid-back town of Luang Prabang. Lao-born Joy and his Australian partner, Caroline, opened Tamarind’s doors in 2005 and they and their wonderful team have been bringing authentic Laotian cuisine to visitors ever since.
The cooking school is situated a little outside the town and really is the picture-perfect scene. It is nestled in a tranquil riverside garden, looking out over a lake, the ideal place to master new culinary techniques!
Our day with Tamarind Cooking School begins!
Before the cooking began, our group paid a visit to Phousi Market, the largest market in Luang Prabang. This is where the locals from all of the surrounding villages bring their produce to sell, as well as to buy their daily wares. It gave us a rare glimpse into their everyday food shop, Laotion style! It’s a little different from going to the supermarket at home, that’s for sure!
This market had everything, from piles of fresh veggies to rows of shops selling oils and dried goods. There were huge bowls of rice grains and even the odd dried squirrel or two!
The biggest contrast to western supermarkets was the fresh meat section of the market and when I say fresh, I mean fresh! Seeing every single organ for sale (even blood and bile) is truly an eye-opener but it’s a welcome one.
It seems to me that in western culture we waste a lot and are fairly ignorant (by choice or not) as to where our meat comes from. Here in Asia, it’s a very different story as it’s laid right out on the table and every single trotter, tail and snout is used. It’s ‘waste not, want not’ at its best!
Our Luang Prabang cooking class!
After absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of Phousi Market, we hopped into the provided minibus and headed over to the paradise setting where Tamarind’s cooking school is located. It was then that our Luang Prabang cooking class would begin.
Throughout the course of the class, we cooked 5 delicious dishes in total and they all tasted amazing! My personal favourite was…
Oua Si Khai – Chicken stuffed lemongrass
I never thought a stalk of lemongrass could be stuffed but you learn something new every day! This was one of the tastiest dishes and was super fun to make, even if my attempts at creating a lemongrass basket were a bit of a shambles! (The one on the right above is mine).
The first step was to make the filling. We used chicken mince but many other ingredients, such as pork, beef, tofu or potato can be used instead and it’ll be just as yummy!
One of the great things about this cooking class was that all of the methods used were traditional. Throughout the day we used a mortar and pestle to mix ingredients, just like the Laotian people do in their own kitchens. This was how we combined the chicken with garlic, kaffir lime leaf, salt and spring onions. In my opinion, it works just as well, if not better than stirring with a spoon, as it allows the elements to fuse into a perfect medley of flavour!
After cutting the lemongrass stalks with a tiny sharp knife (with possibly some help from the experts), the next step was to place the chicken mixture into the centre, and voilà: the lemongrass was stuffed! All that was left to do was dip them in egg, fry them in a wok and then, of course, tuck in! For more info on what we cooked during the day, check out the menu listed in the description here!
Why choose this Luang Prabang cooking class?
There are so many reasons why this cooking class is fantastic; I’ve mentioned them already but here they are again for good measure! Tamarind’s class is super hands-on which is something that has sometimes been missing from other cooking classes I’ve done around Asia.
During the class, we got to squeeze milk out of a coconut, wrap fish in banana leaves and massage sticky rice which are certainly things I’ve never done before and probably won’t be doing again for a while!
Doing a cooking class in Luang Prabang is a must. The setting is peaceful and really beautiful so it’s the perfect place to cook. Even better than the cooking, you get to end the class by filling your belly with the fruits of your labour!
Rather than sticking with what you’re used to, this class introduces you to traditional cooking techniques and equipment. You will combine ingredients with a mortar and pestle, use bamboo baskets to steam the dishes and cook over an open fire throughout the course of the day.
The staff at Tamarind are also wonderful! Funny, friendly, incredibly informative and knowledgeable, you couldn’t ask for a better set of teachers.
It probably goes without saying but in case it isn’t obvious, the food is absolutely delicious too! Aside from the opportunity to munch down on the day’s creations, you will also leave the class with a recipe book so that you can cook all these new delights at home. Maybe it is time to get out that Come Dine With Me application?!
Have your tastebuds been tickled? Book Tamarind’s Luang Prabang cooking class!