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Jaew is pounded sauce or rough paste, the main ingredient of which is chilli: it is essential to a Lao meal. My favourite is Jaew Bong, a specialty of Luang Prabang made with buffalo skin (don’t be put off, it’s delicious).The varieties are endless, ranging from simple blends of chilli, salt and fresh herb leaves to unctuous condiments whose recipes are handed down through families. The secret of a really good one is to sear one or more of the ingredients on a charcoal fire. It is served in a separate bowl and everyone dips food into the communal dish rather than scoop a personal portion onto their plate.
In the North of Laos, jaews are so hot that when I first tried one it felt like someone had sneaked up behind me and slapped…
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