Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back in Singapore!

After nearly 7 weeks of travel, I've finally returned back to my cozy, quiet condo in Singapore.  I didn't realize how much I would miss this place - the food, the weather and of course, the people.  It's been great catching up with friends and colleagues and finding out about their summer holidays.  I have one friend who traveled through Eastern Europe, another who went diving in the Galapagos and a couple I know got engaged in Barcelona!!

There was so much I did over these few weeks that it is going to take me a few posts to get it all sorted.  The first experience I want to share is from my trip to Laos.  Most people in North America know very little about this place because it has not been a major tourist destination until quite recently.  Being a communist country, Laos has experienced very little Western influence (more on that later).  One thing that Laos has a lot of experience in, however, is cooking.  And yes folks, I took another cooking class.

Chicken-stuffed Lemongrass

And it was awesome.

Various Asian vegetables at the local market we toured

Like, over the top - fantastic.

Rice, steaming in a hand-made basket over a charcoal stove

These were recipes that not only looked amazing and tasted amazing, they were also incredibly easy to make and I truly look forward to trying some of these recipes in my own home.  Obviously I'm not going to be steaming my rice over a charcoal stove (though I kinda wish I could) but I am going to do my very best to replicate these dishes and chow down.  Maybe I'll share.

For anyone thinking of going to Laos I took this cooking course at the Tamarind Restaurant in Luang Prabang.  Below is the recipe for Jeow Mak Keua (Eggplant Dip) that was one of my favourites of the afternoon.  PLEASE give it a try - and don't thank me for the recipe - thank the Tamarind Restaurant!  All I've done is altered the recipe to include ingredients from a western supermarket

Various Eggplants

Jeow Mak Keua
This smoky eggplant dip is usually eaten with sticky rice, dried meat, or raw greens.

1 medium sized eggplant
1 chilli
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup chopped coriander (cilantro)
dash of fish sauce
green part of 1 spring onion, chopped

Prick eggplant and chilli with a knife or fork to let out excess moisture.  Grill eggplant, chilli and garlic over an open flame (I would suggest a BBQ but oven broiler would also be OK).  You can use a wooden skewer to grill the chilli and garlic.  Rotate vegetables and continue grilling until skin is completely blackened.  Allow eggplant to cool and peel the skin off.  Discard skin.

Pound chilli, salt and garlic in a mortar and pestle (there are many other kitchen tools to use if you don't have a M&P, such as a food processor).  Add eggplant and coriander and pound until you get a soft paste.  Add fish sauce and spring onion to your taste.

Mashing the Jeow
Serve with sticky rice, bread or veggies on the side. Enjoy!!

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