Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Street Food Part 3 - Luang Prabang Night Market

Street food in Laos is not that good. Mainly it consists of noodle soups, baguettes, grilled chicken or fish. This really does not happen in every town. Mainly just in the larger towns and cities. If you can call any place in Laos a city. 
In Luang Prabang there is a nightly market, mainly for the tourists. They block off a whole road in front of the old Royal Palace. Stalls are set up filled with locally made handicrafts. You have to walk a good 10 or 15 minutes through this before you get to the food. But at least you will have worked up an appetite. 
My memories from my first trip to Laos, 10 years ago are filled with my daily fix of baguette filled with paté in Vientiane from a small Vietnamese shop. The bread was fresh and as good as you would find in Paris, Laos pate, not the same you find in France but a good substitute, this was sliced and placed inside along with some other forms of luncheon meat. Sometimes they used to give me a piece of cheese, sometimes not. Some salad leaves, some thinly sliced cabbage and a good splattering of chilli sauce. Cut in half and wrapped in newspaper tied with an elastic band. They were delicious. 
Thankfully you can still get them in Laos, but in Luang Prabang they are slightly different now. Gone is the paté. In is sliced grilled chicken, all the other stars are there, especially the chilli sauce. Fantastic. Also had my fix of caffeine at the same time, as the stalls were next to eachother. Lina opted for an oreo biscuit milkshake. Very very rich. Breakfast was sorted that way everyday. 
But as I said it was at night that it all came to life. Most people simply walked passed the alley not even knowing anything was there. Only if you looked and looked again would you notice further down the alley a small collection of stalls selling everything from bar-b-q'd chicken, pork, fish, sticky rice, deserts, stews, Lao salads and even a vegetarian stall. (Which had the worst food there, over cooked soggy veg .. YUCK)
The times we ate there, we always had some grilled fish, plucked straight from the Mekong, gutted, cleaned, smeared in a spice mixture, strapped between two wooden sticks and plonked over some hot coals. The skin was crispy and the flesh still moist. No idea what fish it was, but it had few bones, thankfully, as those little buggers have caused a few near death experiences between me and Lina. We are also getting very good now at eating fish with chopstix. 
We also had a nice juicy piece of crispy skinned pork along with a lovely spicy sausage. Both went down well with some sticky rice and a local chilli paste and a cold bottle or two of Lao beer. We were tempted to have a whole chicken and the pigs head nearly made it onto our plates also, but there are only so many times a day I can eat without exploding.
But this just gives me an excuse to return, as if I really needed one.

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