A day in Ban Xieng Lom

Recently, Damo and I were lucky enough to visit the village of one of our workmates, Phonekham. Our friend met us in town and we rode scooters east for about half an hour to reach Ban Xieng Lom, which is nestled on a narrow peninsula, surrounded by the Nam Khan river.

We first visited the house of his uncle who is a local fisherman. The Lao people are very generous, and it’s traditional to greet guests with a home-made rice whiskey called Lao Lao. We were a little sceptical when they brought out a plastic soft drink bottle with mysterious things floating around in it. But not wanting to reject the kind hospitality of our hosts it went down the hatch. This particular brew used honey and medicinal herbs to flavour the whiskey, and it tasted superb! Reminiscent of a honey mead, without being overly sweet.

 

Like many people in northern Laos, Phonekham’s parents have a market garden. Phonekham’s mother met us on the bank of the river and paddled us across in a small canoe to the garden when they were growing cucumber, eggplant and maize.

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Damo and Phonekham on the banks of the Nam Khan river

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There’s a simple bamboo and corrugated tin hut at the garden where a member of the family sleeps. They have a house in the village, but to protect the crops someone always remains at the garden – even during the big storms of the wet season.

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Lunch was amazing and featured eggplant and cucumber from the garden, as well as fish caught from the river. Jeow Mak Keua/spicy eggplant dip is definitely a new favourite dish of mine! We also had Jackfruit soup, bamboo & shrimp soup, a spicy cucumber salad and fried fish, all eaten with sticky rice. Everything was prepared over a small fire in the hut, and the food tasted better than most of the meals I prepared in my fancy western kitchen back home. It reminded me how easy it is to prepare healthy, tasty food with a few fresh ingredients.

After lunch, we helped pick some cucumbers which would be transported and sold in town at the market, then rewarded ourselves with a quick dip in the Nam Khan while we watched Phonekham’s brother catch dinner.

It was a pretty blissed-out ride back to town, with Damo and I feeling tremendously grateful to Phonekham and his family for welcoming us into their daily lives. Khop jai lai lai!

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3 thoughts on “A day in Ban Xieng Lom

  1. Hi Damo and Mrs Damo,

    Just wanted to drop a line and say thanks for sharing your Laos story. You were very lucky to be shown that market garden and the hospitality appeared to be most excellent. The food, oh the food photos. Yum! Glad to read that you are getting out and about and enjoying the spectacular Laos countryside and people.

    I won’t mention that as a mostly vegetarian I enjoyed a very good gourmet chicken, leek and bacon pie this evening cooked in the wood oven which I purchased from the Tooborac pie shop. How could a pie shop in the middle of nowhere be so good?

    Khop jai lai lai!

    Chris

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pie shops in the middle of nowhere are sometimes the best. I remember one such shop in southern Tasmania which was one of those petrol stations / general store / takeaway food places. To this day, despite tasting my way around most of Tasmania, it has the best curry scallop pie! They also had a roaring fireplace and did good hot chips so it was quite nice to stop and eat at on a cold winters day.

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  3. Hey Damo,

    Yeah, scallop pies are the best, and I asked the editor about the very serious issue of scallop pies. Oh they were very good in Tasmania. You don’t see them in Victoria… A bit of a shame that. The editor mentioned a bucket of fresh chips (clean oil) and gravy that she enjoyed in Georgetown in Tasmania and not saying it was the best ever, but yeah, it was the best ever!

    Hope you are enjoying the heat over in Laos.

    It snowed – a lot – here last night and then again this morning. Awesome!

    Like

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