In Laos animals seem to be called one of three things: small BBQ (eg: cat also known as small tiger), medium BBQ (eg: dog), and big BBQ (eg: water buffalo).
In fairness, I never did see cat or dog on the menu but I’m told it does still happen.
I did however indulge in a feast of big BBQ, even though later in the trip I lived to regret it after taking a rather pleasant ride on one.
I have to say I was slightly disappointed. I was expecting water buffalo to taste exotic. It just tastes like beef, only difference being it likes to spent its living days hanging out in the water.
By the time we get to Vietnam I decide the best way to immerse myself in their food is to attend a cooking class.
Our instructor is a touch crazy. Every ingredient we use she introduces to us as if it’s a person.
I’m made to say hello to papaya, “hello papaya.”
Then rice, “hello rice.”
Then chilli, “hello chilli.”
Then carrot, “hello carrot.”
I could go on but you get the point.
She also likes to burst into random fits of song. So as we’re turning our spring rolls in the wok of oil she’s busting out Tina Turner’s “Rolling on a River,” while I’m thinking to myself is this woman for real.
When we’re talking about what kind of pepper to use it’s Michael Jackson’s “Black or White,” and when she’s describing the hotness of chillis it’s the Johnny Cash classic “Ring of Fire.”
She’s clearly got a thing for the English lad in our class too. Every time she asks him to do something she calls him “hot Simon” and when we go to pay in Vietnamese Dong she suggests he could pay her with his “ding dong.”
Seriously everyone’s getting action on this tour except me. In fact, the closest I get is in Hanoi where I have a plate of stir-fried morning glory for lunch, a ‘Fanny’ ice-cream for afternoon tea and dinner at a restaurant called 69.
I’ll get back to the food.
It’s not until Cambodia that I experience the best meal of my two months here. It’s called Lok Lak, a marinated beef dish served on a bed of rice with hot pepper sauce on the side and a sunny side up egg on top.
It’s also in Cambodia that I corrupt my palate with the worst dish of my travels to date: fried tarantula.
Ok, I’ll admit I was a wuss and only ate a leg, but that was quite enough to tell me that it tasted remarkably similar to a slightly soggy BBQ potato chip.