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Easy food for all events

A popular food item commonly served alongside other dishes at weddings and important events at hotels and baci ceremonies, both in homes and offices is Naemkhao.
This is the name given to this dish by northern Lao people, especially those in Luang Prabang and Xayaboury provinces, while people in other parts of the country call it by the Vietnamese name bun kuan.

Ms Lare with her product.

Ms Lare, who makes and sells naemkhao in Phonpapao village, Sisattanak district, said the people of Vientiane refer to it as bun kuan because it’s a Vietnamese dish.
She has been making and selling naemkhao in Vientiane for more than 10 years. She says the soft cylindrical packages of steamed rice wrappers stuffed with minced pork are easy to eat and are enjoyed by people of all ages including children and the elderly.
 “Naemkhao is a comforting dish that’s suitable for breakfast because it is light so it’s good to eat in the morning,” Ms Lare said.
She prepares it from 6am to 10am, using a large bucket. She sells them for a few hours and closes her shop early when they’re sold out.
The bucket contains 20 litres of water which she mixes with nonglutinous rice flour to make the wrappers. The cooking method is easy, she says, but most importantly she emphasises cleanliness and taste as she knows people want food that is both flavourful and healthy.
“Vientiane residents like to eat naemkhao in my shop for breakfast. I sell them for a few hours every day from Monday to Sunday. My regular customers are Lao and Vietnamese. A few foreigners have also tried it and liked it,” she said. 
Her shop is not big but she puts out tables where customers can sit and eat if they would like to. Ms Lare says lots of people buy takeaways instead of eating at her shop.
To make naemkhao she first strains a mixture of liquid and nonglutinous rice flour into a pot which is designed especially for this purpose. The pot contains a white cloth that is used to strain the mixture. She pours the thick liquid mix onto the white cloth and stirs it in circles around the edge of the pot. It takes two minutes to make one naemkhao wrapper and three minutes to strain one with an egg added to the mix.
The circular wrapper is then rolled up with cooked minced pork mixed with seasonings, salt and sugar. Some naemkhao cooks in the capital and the northern provinces also add black mushrooms to the pork.
To add flavour, a special sauce, fried garlic and ground peanuts are served along with naemkhao. “The sauce is really important; if it’s not really tasty the naemkhao won’t be so good. If the naemkhao tastes good it’s because the sauce is extra special,” Ms Lare says.
There are several eateries in Vientiane that sell naemkhao so it’s not difficult to find an outlet if you have a yearning for some. One large outlet near the Asean Mall is very popular, but compared to the number of places selling noodles, naemkhao are few and far between.
I’ve been to Luang Prabang several times and saw many local people making naemkhao for sale. It is easy to find them in that province because there are many places selling them and local people like to eat them for breakfast. A plate of naemkhao costs 10,000 kip and if you want an egg in it as well the price is 15,000 kip.
So if you’re visiting Laos and fancy trying this popular snack, it’s not difficult to find. Try Ms Lare’s shop close to the Tonmali cake café in Phonpapao village near the Phonpapao traffic lights.

By Phon Thikeo
(Latest Update October 14, 2017)

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Vientiane Times Phonpapao Village, Unit 32, Sisattanak District, P.O.Box: 5723 Vientiane, Lao PDR
Tel: (856-21) 336042, 336048, Fax: (856-21) 336041

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