In my history of hosting visitors in Vientiane, after a few days I run out of exciting things to do.
I have long wished for some kind of cultural experience that could be had within the city limits, so I was excited to learn about a new half day cooking class called “Lao Experiences“.
The Lao Experience begins at 9:30 when you meet at Full Moon Cafe for pick up and a scenic ride out to the cooking school, which is on the Mekong in the Thaduea area. The cooking instruction starts at 10 am and the class concludes at 1, with 1:30 drop off back at Full Moon Cafe.
Since I’m a local, I just arranged to bicycle there myself and arrived at 10 am.
Though the class doesn’t cater to children specifically, I tried it out with my 6-year-old son. I am a vegetarian and asked to have meat substitutes, but I did turn a blind eye to things like fish sauce and chicken bouillon. It is Laos, after all. I have been here long enough to know when to Bo Bpen Nyang.
Once arrived, we had a welcome drink, donned our aprons and made introductions, then got down to the business of Lao food.
We made steamed fish in banana leaves, two kinds of Jaew (eggplant dip and tomato dip), barbecued chicken kebabs, sticky rice, papaya salad, and the crowning glory, mango with sticky rice and coconut milk.
The Lao cooking instructor was very kind and patient and did her best to field my questions.
My 6-year-old was keen to watch when sharp knives were involved, but he got plenty of experience using the mortar and pestle, filling a banana leaf for steaming, and watching kebabs on the grill.
I need to confess that I have lived in Laos for almost a decade and never once made sticky rice myself. But after watching the demo, I’m confident that I can. I even bought my own sticky rice making accruements from the market.
After cooking we got to the best part: eating! In a serene outdoor eating space, we shared a meal with the other cooking class students (there were only four of us; Lao Experiences likes to keep classes small) and were fortuitously treated to a village parade procession, complete with loud music, drums, and lam-vonging.
As a memento, we were presented with a pamphlet containing a few Lao recipes that I can hopefully replicate independently.
The Lao Experiences cooking class was a really fun chance to spend a morning learning new skills and bonding with my child.
I will try to wrangle my next visitor into having a “Lao Experience”.