24 (Tue) June 2014
A Deep-Fried Cricket
at Khop Chai Deu
-Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic-
Over the course of 16 days, through a combination of personal and professional travels, I will be in 12 localities across 7 countries, eating and documenting at least 1 meal in each of them.
This is Day 4 / Locality 4 / Country 3.
(For additional posts, see 16/12/7.)
Mission to Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Day 2 of 4)
In Vientiane. Tuesday to Thursday, I’m here with a WHO team to facilitate a government workshop on policy coherence for nutrition.
Like in many developing countries these days, the problem in Laos is the double burden of malnutrition, which means that people are either starving to death due to a lack of food or eating themselves to death with an overabundance of junk food. The solutions will require multisectoral engagement not only of the health sector but also finance, trade, commerce, agriculture, education, and others. Just getting them into the same room is a major achievement.
Khop Chai Deu is a Lao restaurant. According to the website, it’s the oldest restaurant in Vientiane. Also touted by the website as “the meeting point for the tourists who arrive in Laos and wish to get a taste of a true Lao restaurant…an afternoon spot for the expats who like to meet after work.”
Indeed, I was the only non-white customer in the joint.
The food was kinda crappy, for a few reasons.
First, I’m beginning to think that Lao food is a bit too extreme and austere for my tastes. This is based on three meals: dinner on a prior visit to Vientiane (see generally 3.271 Larb Gai), lunch this afternoon, and tonight’s dinner. The cuisine seems to employ many similar herbs and seasonings found in neighboring Thailand and Cambodia, like basil and cilantro and chilies and lemongrass and fish sauce, but here ingredients are often left raw and used on their own as main components, rather in small amounts as accents or garnish. For example, the spring rolls were filled with primarily basil and cilantro. The salad was dressed in what seemed to be unadulterated fish sauce. I’m not yet ready for such intensity.
Second, almost everything ordered was vegetarian. The spread turned out that way because someone in the party – an intern, incidentally – happens to be a vegetarian – technically, not even a strict vegetarian, she just prefers vegetables. As I’d mentioned in a recent post, people are so ingratiatingly accommodating to vegetarians these days (see generally 5.150 American-Style Greek Salad). I’m beginning to feel a growing hostility that may soon explode. Anyway, as much as I do love veg, I can’t stand eating only veg.
And third, my one non-vegetarian contribution, the crickets weren’t so great. Not that I expected them to be, but I wanted to try something completely new. They – and by “they,” I mean the single specimen that I tried – didn’t really taste like anything, just the slightly stale oil in which they’d been deep-fried. And not even very crispy, just a bit soggy and greasy, as if the oil hadn’t been hot enough. Better than ants (see 3.269 Fried Beef with Red Ants). Thanks anyway.
(See also FOODS.)
(See also PLACES.)