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Lao sausages' unique tastes from ancient recipes, local ingredients

The smoke hanging over the streets of cities and towns across Laos in the early mornings and late afternoons is a sign that a variety of food is being grilled for hungry customers travelling to or from work and home.

There are many grilled dishes available along the streets and in the many restaurants of Vientiane, including grilled chicken, fish, beef and pork and but one of the most mouth-watering are grilled sausages.

One of the most popular sausages in the southern provinces known as Mum . --Photos Soukvimarn

Sausages are one of the traditional Lao foods, with the taste differing from the north to the south of the country because of the local ingredients used to make them.

The owner of Soukvimarn Cuisine Lao restaurant, Ms Soychindavanh Southivongnorath, said the Lao sausage has its own distinct character, just like sausages in other countries of the region, such as Cambodia, China, Myanmar and Thailand.

“I believe that each country has its own culture, and so their sausages too will have their own taste because of the ingredients and the way they have been made according to old recipes,” she explained.

Lao sausages are usually of three varieties. In the north of the country, they are made with minced beef or pork, minced fats and a variety of ingredients. But the key ingredient is Mak Khaen ( Zanthozylum Limonella Alston ), which gives it a distinct aroma ( Oua Mak Khaen ) that makes people realise immediately that the sausage is from the north.

“Many of the northern dishes use Mak Khaen and it's the same for the sausages. They will put it and mix it with some chilly,” Ms Soychindavanh explained.

The sausages from the central areas of Laos are called Oua Kheuang (pork sausage with traditional herb). This is a bit different as it uses pork mixed with chilly and other ingredients such as herbs. This sausage gets its unique flavour from being smoked with coconut shells, and being grilled before it is served.

“We were taught by our parents to smoke the sausage with coconut shells to give it a good aroma. And when we grill it with charcoal on a stove, the smoke of the oil makes the sausage smell even better. The smoky taste combined with the herbs inside makes this sausage very delicious,” Ms Soychindavanh said.

Heading to the southern provinces of Laos, there are three major varieties of sausages - sour, sweet and liver sausages. The sour one is similar to Oua Kheuang but is called Oua Som . Rice is used in its preparation and the sausages are dried in the sun for a few days before being cooked.

The sweet sausage, known as Saikork , is very popular among youngsters, who eat them before going to school in the morning or in the afternoons after a busy day of studies. It is made of pork, fat, salt, sugar and rice wine and fermented for two days before being dried in the sun.

The third variety is Mum (dry black sausage) and is one is the most popular gifts in southern provinces such as Savannakhet. Mum is made from cow's liver mixed with beef, galangal, fried dried rice powder, salt and sugar, and dried in the sun for at least five days.

Ms Soychindavanh said while visiting many provinces from the north to the south, she had seen that each province has its own cooking style. Besides what she learnt about cooking from her parents, she had picked up a lot from her experiences in the provinces.

“Mom and dad told me how to cook and serve in the restaurant since I was a young but they had few opportunities to visit different places. So what they knew, they had learnt from their parents. After almost 30 years of experiences at Soukvimarn, serving locals and foreigners, I believed the reality of traditional Lao food will be a local meal of the place only,” she explained.

She added, “My restaurant cannot bring all the tastes and the atmosphere but we can bring similar tastes from different areas. That's why our service helps foreigners get a taste of the traditional Lao food.

“I never learnt formally about being a chef, but I learnt from my parents and my experiences, and now technology is available all the time and I learn from that too. This is the reason that there are almost hundred items on the menu at Soukvimarn Cuisine Lao,” Ms Soychindavanh said.

She said the sausages of Laos are very different from those of the neighbouring countries because each boasted its own blend of ingredients. “As you know, most of the traditional sausages emerged from ancient knowledge,” she added.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update July 29, 2017)


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