June 27, 2012

LLR (book): ບື້ມຄົວກິນລາວເພັຽສິງ / Traditional Recipes of Laos

Title:  ບື້ມຄົວກິນລາວເພັຽສິງ / Traditional Recipes of Laos
By:  Phia Sing
Edited by:  Alan and Jennifer Davidson
Translated by:  Phouangphet Vannithone and Boon Song Klausner
Drawings by:  Soun Vannithone
Publisher/Year: Prospect Books, 1981, 1995, 2012 (cover of newest edition shown below)
ISBN:  9781903018958 
Price:  $9-30USD (depending on edition)

Every Lao food lover and chef probably has a copy of this.  And if you don't, you should get it!  This is arguably one of the best Lao recipe books of all time.  It contains all sorts of appetizers, dishes, entrees, sauces, soups, stir fry, salads, desserts, etc. with all the traditional ingredients that were used along with instructions on traditional methods of cooking.  You won't find MSG as a flavor enhancer here. 

It's an incredible compendium.  In the earlier edition (which is the one I've read) has on one side the author's notes written in Lao and the other side is the recipe and instructions translated into English.  Although this may no longer be the case in the newer editions.  

The majority of recipes are his however the editors have added some of their own as well.  There's also some background on Lao eating habits, info on the author, and illustrations/drawings by Lao artists, among other things.  Phia Sing was the Head Chef and Chief of Protocol for the royals of Luang Prabang until his death in 1967.

The background on this book, its late author Phia Sing, and late publisher Alan Davidson, is equally compelling.  Its explained in the book how the genesis of its publication came about.  The late Alan Davidson was the British Ambassador in the 1960s.  While speaking with HRH The Crown Prince, he indicated he was in search of authentic Lao recipes.  The King handed Alan 2 booklets that had belong to Phia.  Phia had already died by this point.  However he had recorded all his recipes for posterity.  His wish was to have them published and he had given it to the King.  The King lent those copies to Alan who then photocopied them and returned the originals.  The photocopies are what make up the bulk of this book.

It was the original wish of Phia that the book and any proceeds go towards posterity and the Lao people.  Keeping with his original wishes and circumstances at the time, the late author and his company had decided to donate the proceeds of the sale of this book to an organization that assist with Lao immigrants in Britain.  This was done so with the blessing of Phia's son living in France.

Decades later, this book is still the standard on Lao recipes and cooking.  It's interesting to read and it comes at a great price so I highly recommend it.

Sidenote:  There are Lao chefs and cooks around the world.  Some of them have published their own books or have their own websites.  If you have some time, Google them online and explore what they have to offer.  Their books are usually well priced and great to read!  We may review some down the road as well.

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