Laap buffalo salads, lemongrass stuffed with minced chicken, and steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves are just some of the classic dishes you can find in eateries across Laos – though what’s to stop you from making them at home? The next time you head to Luang Prabang, you’ll want to check out Tamarind Cooking School on the outskirts of town.
Not to be confused with their restaurant on Bat Vat Sene, the academy is founded on the basis of teaching foreigners about the special flavours of Laotian cuisine. Think dishes made with sticky rice, a staple in the region that dishes out more energy than its less glutinous counterpart, as well as jeow dips, the ubiquitous Lao condiment that can be made in more than 10 variants.
A typical day class starts off early in the morning, as a car picks up your entourage from your hotel and brings you to the first stop: Phousi Market. It’s the largest in town, not unlike one you might find in neighbours Thailand or Myanmar, but for the starry-eyed tourist from far away, the experience is a fabulous treat. Expect to see a dizzying spectrum of Southeast Asian vegetables and exotic fruits – your instructor will explain them to you – as well as a particularly squeam-worthy meat section laden with buffalo carcasses and otherwise. You might get to try some of the local snacks like fried mushrooms and kaffir lime leaves, at which point you should buy several packets home as a delicious souvenir.
At the cooking class venue about 20 minutes away, try your hand at recreating some of the local cuisine, from the jeow mak keua (smoky eggplant dip) and mok pa (tilapia steamed in banana leaves) to a glorious khao gam, or purple glutinous rice with coconut sauce, for dessert. All things considered, a class at Tamarind provides excellent value for your money, and should be an integral part of your trip to Luang Prabang.
Want to impress with some newfound Laotian cooking chops? Sign up for a class with Tamarind Cooking School by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org. A day class from 9am – 3pm is priced at 285,000 kip, while evening classes (without market tour) from 4.30pm – 8.30pm is priced at 215,000 kip, available Mon-Sat.