Photo Credit: Vientiane Times
If you go to Champassak province and are wondering what to buy for your friends in the way of souvenirs, you can't go wrong with a tasty jam made from pineapple, mango or tamarind.
Pineapple and tamarind jams and dried mango (mak muang phaen) are now plentiful in the province's main market where shoppers and travelers usually stop to buy these popular items as gifts.
Pineapple jam is one of the symbolic snacks of Champassak province.
During the Vat Phou festival from February 9-11 this year, sales of these snacks are expected to double, bringing in sweet rewards for vendors.
A resident of Thaluang village in Pakxe district, Ms. Saengdeuan Sienvilay, who has been making jam since 1988, said she still couldn't make enough to meet demand during the festival. Each of the jams she makes is based on what she has learned over the years with her friends before going into business.
She became skilled in making top quality jam, which increased in popularity among her customers during the 2000s. In 2012, she was appointed president of the village's fruit jam production group, which aimed to create extra income for the local community. To help further boost their profits, various government bodies helped Ms. Saengdeuan's group to design a logo, packaging and brand to make their products recognisable and more attractive to customers.
Most of their products are made to order, with the majority of their customers based in markets in Pakxe. In addition, people from Saravan and Savannakhet provinces and Vientiane also eat Ms. Saengdeuan's fruit jams. She also gets orders from people in Thailand and Lao people living abroad.
Regular sales help Ms. Saengdeuan to earn a sustainable income and she makes about 2 million kip a month. She is able to make less jam from September to November as there is fewer fruit available at this time of the year. She gets most of her raw materials from Laos, especially pineapple and tamarind. She buys mangoes at local markets from April to July each year and buys imported mangoes from Cambodia and Thailand from August to March when they are not in season in Laos.
The products are packed in plastic bags or glass boxes, with the cost ranging from 20,000 to 40,000 kip depending on the size of the bag or box. Another member of the group, Ms. Bounmy, said she only makes jam as an extra job and only in the dry season when there's plenty of sunshine to dry the mangoes, pineapples and tamarind. If she had more money, she would buy a machine to dry the fruit in the wet season instead of having to wait for the sunshine when the rainy season gets underway.
The women say it is easy to make pineapple and tamarind jams and dried mango. First, you need to chop up fresh ripe pineapple in small pieces then boil it. Then add salt, sugar and coconut cream to taste. If you like the flavour of durian, you can add some to the pineapple jam. Store the jam for at least two days before selling it. The same method is used to make tamarind jam.
To make dried mangoes, mince the flesh of fresh ripe mangoes and boil it. Leave it to cool before rolling it into thin pieces then dry it in sunlight for four or five days.
Ms. Saengdeuan says fruit jams and dried mango have become a symbol of Pakxe district and of Champassak province. "Don't forget to buy some for your friends and family the next time you come here for a visit," she said.