One year anniversary post…

Last year today, sitting on my bed with my legs stretched out before me, reclined on the traditional triangular pillow my husband placed against my back, I pressed on “Publish Post” for the very first time on this site. I have not written in a long time, but knew that I wanted to start collecting memories and recipes so that years from now when inspiration strikes, our son (soon to be 11 year-old) could find his way to the kitchen and produce a taste from home. Hopefully then he will rediscover, and feel surrounded by, the human connection, the shared history of a people, the life little secrets, and the love of our family that food brings together…

I decided to crack open the window into our life for I felt that our stories are shared by many, not so much in the details, but in what lessons they teach, and what they communicate. I have been told at one point that I have lived a privileged life, having had it too easy, not knowing what pain and suffering is, hence unlikely to understand life and the principles I seem to live by. It is true that my childhood, though uprooted, was a happy one, full of escapades and discoveries; I was lucky to have been raised by positive role models who did not let me focus on my life’s shortcomings and blame the circumstances, but who have pushed me to explore the possibilities. I really had no idea if anyone would read my blog, but I was determined to write it all down. At the very least, my family would have a virtual place to gather round.

Over 15,000 readers from 75 different countries later, I sat this morning at the kitchen table to finish typing these thoughts, reminding myself that exactly a year ago I could not walk. You see, it was not by choice that I was writing in bed. It was because almost two years ago as I was leading the first ever cultural exchange to Laos for our music and dance programs in Vientiane, cancer cells had metastasized to my bones, making me unable to walk. But if you ask me what I remember from that trip to my motherland, I would tell you that I loved the colors of the sunset over the Mekong through our bus’ dirty windows, that the fresh coconut juice was the best thirst quencher in the humid afternoon, and the show our students put on at the National Cultural Hall was breathtakingly beautiful… NOT the excruciating pain I experienced while taking the 5 steps to the podium for the opening remarks.

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer during the holidays of 2005: my first obsession was to see my son (who was then 3) go to first grade – we have just finished middle school selection! Throughout the second round of treatment, my family and friends was my biggest cheering squad. Not once had my husband let me doubt that I would cook, walk, and teach dance again. The first thing I did when I was getting better, but not strong enough to stand, was to guide him, from my bed, through the process of making ‘tom khem’ for our son and our nephew, Santi, who would take pictures on his phone to show me the various stages of the caramelization process. Needless to say my husband burnt the first batch and set off the smoke detector! Throughout dinner we laughed so hard at the ridicule of our first instructional cooking session, while eating, though second attempt but still slightly bitter, this all-time comfort dish.

Now that I am able to run around again, those days seem so far away. A lot of times, people even forget the ordeal that our family had gone through. But that is how we have chosen to live, to focus on the light, and refuse to have darkness take over. I am counting on being here for college selections, and definitely on catering my child’s wedding, per his request! I am not one to age myself, but birthdays and anniversaries have a whole new meaning after my diagnosis, as they are iImagemportant milestones, a reminder to reflect on what we have accomplished, to celebrate how far we have come, and to be grateful of the many life challenges we have survived.  If nothing else, I hope that you take away from this blog that regardless of your past and circumstances, you alone can choose what defines you, and decide what to do with your waking moments…

Here’s to many more years of blogging!

Posted in Food | 19 Comments

Giving Thanks… The Unbreakable Ties

On June 3rd, 1990, the day before my mother’s b-day, my aunt put my brother and me on the plane as the most precious present ever to her sister, she said. I moved to the US to finally reunite with my parents and older sisters after 15 years of living apart: my father was sent to re-education camp in 1975 in northern Laos; my sisters were sent out to Hawaii via the refugee camp in Thailand in 1978; my father returned from camp in 1980; my brother and I left to France in late 1982, while my mother remained the only constant… in Vientiane, through it all…

Adapting to immediate family members who shared little memories and who have lived separate lives on divergent paths took some getting used to. A firm believer in the thickness of the blood, the unbreakable thread that tied us all, my mother became the glue that mended all of our differences. She was the iron hand in a velvet glove, one that once only touched the finest of silks. These same hands were able to endure the fast pace of the assembly line, upon which our family rose to build together the long awaited life under the same roof, and to share once again in the deeply rooted tradition of having meals around the dinner table. My father worked hard at transferring his French education to the increasingly high tech industry. He quickly adjusted, mastered English in record time, and regained his role as head of the household. His authority was sometimes questioned. His French ways clashed with the American simplicity. But it was his Lao stories, his father’s teachings, that most epitomized who he is. He opted not to say much, choosing his words, sometimes too carefully. But with a simple look, at times hard and demanding, and at times lost and gentle, he could express all the sorrows changing times have caused, and all the convictions and dreams a father could wish for his children. I understood beyond words. I get that their partnership is not at fifty-fifty, but gives and takes based on the situations, but always rounding up to one hundred percent.

invitation picture48 years ago this month, my parents married with approvals from both sides of the family, a match well made. Their traditional soukhouane wedding ceremony in which respected elders tied white threads around the wrists while wishing the newlyweds longevity, prosperity, health, and strength in their union, took place in the morning and was the very first marriage celebrated at the house on the Mekong. Many times I have heard my parents recount the preparations my grandmother orchestrated leading up to the blessed day. Parachute cloth had to be stretched to serve as tents over temporary outdoor kitchen. Clay stoves had to be brought in for mass cooking. Details about food had to be arranged. The house saw countless people go in and out, marching to the rhythm of pestles hitting the mortar, twirling to the sounds of chopping, slicing, and grilling. All the women in the neighborhood were mobilized to lend a hand, to concoct their specialty for the feast, to polish the silver, to prepare baskets for betel nut chewing… Only the most respected and happily married relatives were invited to arrange the banana leaves into cones and branches, and to string flowers full of meanings, connoting love, harmony, procreation, fortune, and happiness for the double baci trays (ceremonial flower arrangements atop stacked silver bowls): these hands were to symbolically transmit marital bliss onto the young couple. That same evening, a reception took place under the clear January sky and brisk air where friends danced the traditional lumvong (the circle dance) the night away…

40anniversary0011Through separation and life tribulations, my parents’ ties remained strong. It was their unshakable determination to give us a home that finally brought our family together and bonded them after so many years: it was their sole reason for leaving Laos. Never have I heard them blame circumstances for our displacement. Not once did I hear utter regrets. Not once did I witness their discouragement on starting from nothing way behind and much later in life, settling in a new country, learning a foreign language, adapting to an alien culture. Their acceptance of karma, the consequences of their decisions and actions whether good or bad, is fact of life. They have shown me that good will, positive actions, and unwavering faith can overcome anything. It was on their sheer iron will that our family stood tall to meet the challenges, and resolutely restored that deeply rooted tradition of sharing and gathering around food, a ritual so long ago bestowed on us in such a faraway land. No matter how well adjusted and how close we are to living the American dream, my parents have always reminded us of our roots, of where we come from, now a place they once again call home. Life has come full circle…

For that and so much more, I am grateful.

Posted in Family and Life, Festivals, Traditions, and Culture | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Nam Khao, ແໝມເຂົ້າ ~ Crispy Rice Salad

I am taking a little break from my “giving thanks” series, my reflection posts… about what I am grateful for, thinking of the people who have walked along my side, of the small and significant events that have shaped my life. Not that I can’t think of and write them all, but I want to take time to do them justice, as they have filled my journey with so much joy, laughter, love, losses, and life lessons…

This time of the year is especially busy. Traffics are overwhelming in the rain, and stores are overcrowded anytime of the day, all made extra frantic with endless Christmas jingles from radio stations and loud speakers. I am far from being a Grinch, but I could do without the added stress. So I often times find myself testing cookies and dessert recipes at home to share and/or trade with friends and neighbors… which in itself is a whole new level of pressure, because baking is not my forte. I find that it is more of a science: an ounce off could make things totally different, not giving a whole lot of room to experiment and/or for mistakes. Most the time, I end up making deep fried eggrolls for neighbors in exchange for their homemade goodies! Nonetheless, every year I find renewed determination to face the oven and never give up the aspiration to present a beautiful tray of holiday treats…

However, even my most resolute self falls back into old habits. I find myself dreaming about dishes to share at family parties, especially about this one for which my cousin Dera from New York sent in early request to ensure it makes it on our many family holiday celebratory meals. So I fought traffic, rain, and crowd today to get ingredients and give it a last test run before posting it on this blog… in case one of my readers wants to make it to share with loved ones. This is one of the most requested recipes from my followers. I am happy to oblige as it is one of my favorites as well. I could eat this for several meals in a row, and assumed for a long time that my husband loved it, too. I only found out after many years of marriage, that though he likes it, he could not eat it for a week on out! How is this possible?

ແໝມເຂົ້າ – Nam Khao loosely translated Crispy Rice Salad (khao means ‘rice’) is one of our family’s favorites. My father reminds us every time we gather around it that we used to request it as weekend rewards. Back in our younger days, the best place to have it was in  Tha Deua, a small port just outside of Vientiane, where the Friendship Bridge to Nongkhai, Thailand now stands. For the longest time, this 2-step dish was also known as Nam Tha Deua: the first step is to make the rice balls and deep fry them; the second is to break and loosen the rice and toss it in seasonings and som moo (ສົ້ມໝູ literally ‘sour pork’, or pickled/cured pork). Nam is the Vietnamese word for som moo. I could probably speculate on Nam Khao‘s origins based on this local specification, but for lack of knowledge in food history, I’ll just leave it at that. When my father recounts the story, it seemed such a special treat, an adventure leading to this dish. We had to wake up early and get ready, drive out to Tha Deua (which I am sure took a long time then) with the entire clan. It was a family affair, an excursion, a culinary destination. It is now a mere 15-minute car ride from the heart of Vientiane to Tha Deua! But in a lot of ways, the connotation remains. Hands down, this is my oldest sister, Euay Air ’s best Lao dish. There is this unspoken rule in our family of many cooks and food lovers: we know without saying it out loud, who has mastered what dishes. We would automatically assume our sous-chef roles when our specialty is not being prepared.

Like many traditional dishes, there are regional variations and personal preferences. Some use ground pork in the rice balls. Some mix in finely sliced kaffir lime leaves and chopped lemongrass for fragrance. Many like to add chopped peanut during the final tossing. The Thai also make this dish, using red curry paste as one of the seasonings for the rice balls. The one our family makes consists of very simple ingredients, leaving the combination of grated coconut and rice come together and shine through, and making the som moo (ສົ້ມໝູ) the star of the dish. You might have found out already through this blog that my recipes are fairly straightforward and don’t require an endless list of ingredients. That’s really how I like my food: fresh and simple with distinct but balanced flavors. Now, I did not get this recipe directly from Euay Air since we cook by feel, but the ingredients are the same, with slight difference in the proportion. So be creative, taste, and adjust to your liking, especially during the seasoning and tossing of it all! Happy gathering!

Step 1 ~ How to make the rice balls – Ingredients:

Rice Ingredients

  • 5 cups of cooked and cooled jasmine rice (cook with a bit less water than you would normally so that the rice isn’t too mushy)
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup grated coconut (in the frozen section at your Asian stores – see Pantry)
  • 1 pouch of 1.75 oz of coconut powder (see Pantry)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying

Rice Balls MixAdd all ingredients and give it a quick mix, be careful not to squeeze the rice and mush it.

Making Rice BallsForm balls with the palms of your hands, pressing firmly so the rice does not come apart during cooking. I keep a bowl of water nearby through the process and wet my hands between each rice ball to prevent the rice from sticking too much. I keep the rice balls around 3 inches in diameter for faster frying, and a good crunchy to wet rice ratio.

Frying Rice BallsHeat oil in a deep pan on medium high, enough to submerge the rice balls. Once hot, gently drop the rice balls into the oil. If the oil isn’t hot or the rice balls are not firmly pressed, they will soak up the oil and fall apart in the pan. When they turn lightly golden, flip to other side.

Fried Rice BallsWhen they turn golden brown, remove from oil, and leave to rest on paper towels. Finish cooking all the rice balls. At the end of this process, I usually drop a handful of dried chilies in the pan, and quickly remove from oil: they are the perfect accompaniment for this dish. Let the rice balls cool to room temperature before breaking and mixing them with som moo. At this stage, I usually lose at least a couple of them as my 10 year old would eat them as snack: he has yet to develop a liking for som moo.

Step 2 ~ How to toss the crispy rice salad – Ingredients:

Nam Khao Toss Ingredients

  • Rice balls broken up into loose clumps
  • 1 cup of chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup of chopped green onions
  • 3 tbs of fish sauce
  • Juice of 1 1/2 lime
  • 2 5.2 oz sticks of som moo (ສົ້ມໝູ or Nam)

Som MooAdd rice and som moo that have been broken up loosely by hand, lime juice, and fish sauce. Give it a quick toss. Taste and adjust the flavors, by adding more lime juice and/or fish sauce to your liking. I like mine on the strong side (‘lod jut’, ລົດຈັດ) because I eat it wrapped in lettuce leaves or puk e leud (ຜັກອີ່/ນາງເລີດ)which bring down the flavors a notch. At parties, people also like to eat it as is, so adjust accordingly.

Nam Khao TossOnce the taste is to your liking, throw in the chopped cilantro and green onions. Give it another quick toss, and plate.

Nam Khao TrayThis feeds 6 to 8 people, depending on what else you are serving. Traditionally, this dish is accompanied by fresh vegetables, lettuce leaves, banana flowers, puk e leud, and herbs such as mint. Wrap a spoonful in a lettuce leaf with mint and topped with a crunchy hot pepper, and you get a mouthful of crispy and soft rice, of freshness and spiciness, and a burst of salty and sour punch. Enjoy in sharing!

single nam serving 1For smaller intimate dinner parties, during which I let my usually non Lao guests sample our favorite traditional dishes as multiple courses, I have done single servings that are  always received with a lot of “oohhh” and “aaahhh”!

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Giving Thanks… Through the Arts

As families and friends gather round and feast over latest gossips and well-kept family recipes this Thanksgiving weekend, I am reminded that I have been away from this blog for several months. Not that I have been idle, on the contrary. So I have decided to write a series of posts about things I am most thankful for. This year in particular, I have much to reflect on and be grateful…

This past summer, I was involved in the first ever 6-week long Cultural Exchange to the US with the National School of Music and Dance from Vientiane, Laos, for projects I am most passionate about: Kinnaly – Lao Traditional Music and Dance Troupe and the Annual Summer Camp in Seattle, both programs of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of Lao Heritage Foundation, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve, promote, and transmit Lao culture through the arts ( This was an extension of the historical Summer Cultural Exchange to Laos 2011, the result of hard work of all officers, board of directors, and volunteers, coupled with generous financial contributions from organizations, businesses, and private donors. By staying true to our mission and believing in the boundless potential of our programs, we overcame challenges from the onset of the project…

My quest to learn about our cultural practices and to maintain the language began with my journey away from the homeland at an early age. This life altering flight separated me from my parents and everything I had known, and transported me to Le Havre, France. There, I was thrown into 4th grade with minimal French vocabulary taught by Jacques, my favorite Velcro guy, a distant sound learned in a faraway land. My aunt’s family, who took my younger brother and me in, became the cultural broker that facilitated a rather quick language acquisition and adaptation to the French way of life. I remember landing in Paris before Christmas, where 10 AM outside of the airport looked like night in Laos. I was disoriented. But by end of school year, in 6-month time, I was able to communicate very proficiently, played with and understood other children without being made fun of; granted similar sounding words were used interchangeably. My two younger cousins became immediate siblings. Vimala turned into a younger sister I never had (by the way, she also writes a food blog: www., product of environment or do certain things run in the blood?). My first memory of Vinarom was of him finishing my first French school lunch, where no-one was released from the canteen for recess unless everyone at the table cleared their plates: for the life of me, I was not able to swallow ham and mashed potatoes: what a strange tasting food!

It was within the walls of this second home away from the house on the Mekong that I learned to embrace my Lao roots. I was writing sporadic letters to my parents to keep them informed of my brother and my growing up away from them, words that tied me to them. They in turn taught me valuable lessons in fairly formal Lao language through cherished and anticipated hand written mail: to be helpful around the house, to be respectful of the generous hands that fed us, to be thankful for the educational opportunities, and to be a productive member of society. I was fully immersed in community building where my uncle, a medical doctor, held the position of president of the Lao association for many terms. My aunt began training Vimala and me in Lao traditional dances, and we performed everywhere! I fell in love with it at first move. It inculcated in me the gentle nature of the Lao people, aspiring to live in harmony with nature, celebrating humility and simple beauty, respecting those who have come before us, and accepting that our actions have far-reached consequences… The essence of being Lao was manifested through the haunting melodies, the slow flowing moves, and the nonchalant but purposeful choreography. I was blessed to have flourished under such nurturing circumstances, rooted while exploring limitless possibilities.

When I moved to the US to finally reunite with my parents and older sisters after 15 years of living parallel lives, I became more aware of what it meant to be grounded in our unique heritage. It was what helped me adapt to life changing events, and shielded me from extreme cultural shocks. I was thrown into the adopted home’s school system. My brother and I stood out like sore thumbs in our rain coats and sweaters tied around our shoulders! This time it was my last year of high school; the hallways were filled with slangs and school spirit, short skirted cheerleaders, driving seniors, and bonded cliques. What a difference with the 2-hour French café lunch breaks, the scooter riding, cigarette smoking, coffee drinking, and sworn lifetime friends we had. 30-minute lunches of burgers and fries out of a brown bag seemed uncivilized! Coming home to sticky rice and spicy food was the only constant through it all.

In college, I began teaching traditional dance to members of the Lao Student Association. It was the rope that kept me afloat once more as I was navigating campus life. I retired from performing after I got married, but never ceased to learn and train from leading masters in the field. Shortly after, I began teaching a small group of teenagers. The five girls called themselves “Kinnaly”, named after our signature dance about mythological creatures, half bird half women, daughters of the sky God who occasionally escape their father’s celestial gardens to come down and enjoy earthly pleasures, such as bathing in the cool river. Youthful and beautiful, they are known for their artistic qualities, as graceful dancers and talented musicians. Since then, Kinnaly – Lao Traditional Music and Dance Troupe ( has grown exponentially, to include boys and a full traditional orchestra.

When I look back at my guinea pigs, the OK’s (Original Kinnalies), I can’t help but beam with pride in the accomplished young women they have become. Kathy (aka Amela) is pursuing a demanding career in New York City as buyer for a giant retailer. Jennifer (aka Latana) is following her aspiration of leveling inequality in education and I sense an upcoming request for a letter of recommendation for graduate school. Katherina (aka Poupee) just landed a job after just graduating from a prestigious fashion and design school in Los Angeles. Olivia (aka Veravon) changed track after college and just received her diploma from a leading culinary arts school, working with talented chefs. Phonetip is working full time and putting herself through college. They have become role models for the younger Kinnalies and are giving back by their continued involvement in the program at varying capacities. The Kinnaly students’ eagerness to learn motivates me and their talent amazes me, keeping the creative juice flowing in my veins. It was only my hope that the small drop in the ocean will ripple and generate waves…

My commitment to provide opportunities for the younger generations to explore their cultural identity through artistic journeys, have permitted me to work with incredible people who share the passion of fostering growth. Meeting recording artist and song writer Ketsana ( whose love for the performing arts and pledge to support young musicians has led our organization to make history with the first ever Summer Cultural Exchange to Laos 2011 where our American born participants of Lao descent were given the opportunity to train with traditional music and dance masters from the National School of Music and Dance. It was a huge undertaking! Euay Ketsana’s extensive reach within the artistic community made possible a culminating show at the National Cultural Hall. Her leadership and tireless devotion made it all possible, realizing one of LHF goals.

This summer 2012, the Pacific Northwest team received with great anticipation a delegation of 7 masters from Vientiane to teach over 100 Sixth Annual Summer Camp participants; 2 of those traveled to D.C. Metro area to teach the first Summer Camp there. Hosting the dance masters and being surrounded by the daily creative energy, I found renewed inspiration. For 4 weeks straight, I polished old tricks, learned new techniques, developed new skills, and furthered my knowledge of historical and folkloric contexts. I was blown away by the level of expertise and master pieces that were created. New music and dance choreography graced our end of program Cultural Showcase. The community was on its feet in awe with the beauty before them.

Their stay was filled with long hours of work, packed with laughter, and included a vast array of cuisines. I was blessed by visits from friends who have become dearest: our encounters were far and few in between, but our hearts always beat to the same rhythms. It was our passion to pass on traditional family values to our children that connected us instantly. They are the girlfriends who rolled up their sleeves without being asked, who cooked and cleaned without complaints, gently pushing me out of the kitchen so that I could take care of other responsibilities. Nana came before camp started bearing fresh vegetables and spices from Fresno, California. If you are a passionate Lao cook, I am sure that you can feel the excitement of finding boxes of freshly picked chilies, fragrant lemongrass stalks, and bags of green kaffir lime leaves! Find her cooking some of the most traditional dishes at Kham brought her sweet daughter Amily to camp from San Francisco. She rolled out some of the best senh khao pierk (homemade noodles) late into the night to be ready for breakfast, and even lent her sewing skills to create new costumes for the show. Phet flew in from Elgin, Illinois, with her son Boon, drove around town grocery shopping, served lunch at camp, and pounded out some of the best jeo (chili based dips) to accompany our meals… I am most indebted to their helping hands and support of me always, no matter the distance.

The journey of paving the way towards the preservation, promotion, and transmission of Lao culture through the arts had generated precious memories and friendships with like-minded individuals. I am thankful to my family for instilling in me the love of our ancestral heritage and for keeping me grounded. I am grateful for each of the Lao Heritage Foundation officers across the nation whose countless volunteer hours and selfless dedication have brought our programs to where they stand today. I am truly blessed to have met some of the most amazing women through this work, which has produced many scrumptious encounters, lively exchanges of ideas, as well as recipes. For that and so much more, I thank you for being a part of my journey to advance our community through artistic expressions, a graceful pace to the beat of the drum towards a beautiful dance. Growing from our roots has yielded so much beauty that will continue to brighten up our world…

Posted in Family and Life, Festivals, Traditions, and Culture | 1 Comment

‘Tis the Season for Grilling ~ Ginger Pork Spareribs…

When it rains, it pours! In this case, when the sun comes out to play, it plays hard. For the second day in the row now, we are finally getting the long awaited warmth and sunshine! Everyone is out soaking it in and storing Vitamin D for the remainder of the year. And tonight again, I am throwing something on the grill to celebrate summer… while it is here! This is a quick and easy meal, served with steamed rice, slices of cucumber and tomatoes. Yumm!

Pork Spareribs in Ginger Marinade…



  • 2.5 lbs pork spareribs
  • 1/2 tbs salt
  • 1/2 tbs black pepper
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 2 tbs oyster sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup of ginger, chopped finely

How to marinate the Pork Spareribs:


Pour all ingredients over spareribs, into mixing bowl


Mix all ingredients thoroughly, cover, and chill in fridge for 1 hour

On the Grill

Preheat on medium high, when hot, put spareribs on grill, and cook on medium low heat

Almost done

Flip over spareribs once the bottom starts to turn golden brown


Grill until thoroughly cooked, and enjoy!

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First Day of Summer ~ Grilled Lemongrass Chicken Wings…

It is amazing how a little bit of sunshine can make Seattlelites forget the other 330 days it mists, sprinkles, drizzles, showers, spits, drenches, downpours, etc… As you can see, we are quite experts when it comes to describing the type of rain we get on a daily basis. A small ray of sunshine is usually cause for celebration, and we all rave about how beautiful the Emerald city is under the blue sky. We even swear that it is the most breathtakingly beautiful city! I woke up really early this morning, with a strange light peeking through the window and on my face. I couldn’t believe that we were blessed with perfect weather to welcome summer, with temperature in the balmy 70 degrees!

Just like the rest of the Seattle population, I thought long and hard about the most important decision of the day: what to throw on the grill for dinner? I could bet that most households dragged out from the shelters and fired up their rusty BBQ grills! Below is my small contribution, with an Asian twist, to one of many American obsessions: finding the perfect marinade for the BBQ.

Lemongrass Chicken Wings on the Grill…



  • 2 lbs chicken wings, separated in wingettes and small drumettes
  • 2 tbs lemongrass (I used the already chopped, found frozen in Asian grocery stores)
  • 1/2 tbs black pepper
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 3 tbs oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tbs salt
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely

How to marinate the chicken:


Pour all ingredients into the mixing bowl


Mix all ingredients and chicken thoroughly, cover and leave in fridge for 1 hour

On the grill

Put on BBQ grill over medium low heat

Almost done

Flip chicken wings when bottom side begin to turn golden brown


It’s ready to eat! Enjoy with a cold glass of Washington Riesling 🙂

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Tom Khem, Sweet Salted Pork Stew With Hard Boiled Eggs…

Since I first started writing this blog, one of the most requested dishes from my followers (believe it or not, I do have a following!) is Tom Khem, loosely translated as Sweet Salted Pork Stew with Hard Boiled Eggs. I totally understand how my generation would miss this homemade goodness, because it is nowadays rarely made the way our grandmothers and mothers make it. Its secret (ready for it?) lies in the making of the caramel, which is one of the hardest steps of this dish. It takes experience and a load of patience! I have seen people use oyster sauce and thick soy sauce to give it its golden brown signature color, but this method also alters its original taste. As a matter of fact, I tend to be weary of the authenticity of any Lao dish that calls for oyster sauce and soy sauce, as these ingredients did not make it to Laos until recently when the Chinese influence began to flood our market…

This dish also has counterparts in neighboring countries. For example the Vietnamese version uses various spices such as cinnamon and I’ve seen star anises, too. I have also seen some Thai version, which consists of purely hard boiled eggs simmered in the sauce. Our Lao version, the one I have grown up eating and making, however, is fairly straightforward with a short list of ingredients, its stars really being the fatty pork and hard boiled eggs. It usually requires the pork belly meat, layered with fat with skin still attached. Since I try to be health conscious, considering the amount of sugar and oil that goes into making its sauce, I usually opt for the pork shoulder, cut country style: it still has some fat, but most definitely leaner.

This is invariably a dish that makes my 10 year-old ask for a second helping of steamed rice, over which he pours the golden brown sauce and eat with a spoon! I hope you enjoy this family recipe!



  • 2 lbs pork shoulder, country style, cut into 2 inches chunks
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/3 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled, lightly crushed
  • 2 inches of ginger, halved, and lightly crush to release fragrance
  • 3 tbs of fish sauce

How to make Tom Khem:

SugarPour into a pot oil and sugar

CaramelCaramelize sugar on medium to low heat, adjusting so that it slowly turns golden brown, and be careful NOT to burn the sugar!

Add garlic and gingerAdd garlic and ginger

Add porkAdd pork and coat all sides evenly with caramel and add water. Bring to boil, lower heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Add eggsStir in gently hard boiled eggs, add fish sauce, and submerge them in sauce

SimmerStir occasionally to ensure even coating of the eggs with the sauce, cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes

DoneServe with steamed rice and enjoy!

Pork belly thom khemAnd sometimes, I do give in and make it with ‘moo saam sunh’ (three layer pork) or pork belly. My boys would go for triple servings and skip dessert altogether!

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