Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ahh... The French

For the unaware, Lao was part of the French Colonial Empire - French Indo China - for quite a few years in the late 1800s through the mid 1900s. Although France's approach to colonial administration in Laos has been described as one of benign neglect, the French influence is nonetheless pronounced throughout the country. It manifests itself in the architecture, language, and perhaps most profoundly, in the food. Bakeries are prolific, and the baguettes were a revelation (so so good!).

The French influence also made for some fantastic breakfasts: flaky croissants; flavorful coffee or expertly crafted espresso drinks; perfectly fluffy and moist omelets.

And then there were the crepes. Just like in Paris, you could get a freshly-made crepe on just about any city sidewalk. While in Luang Prabang, I enjoyed one piping hot crepe oozing with Nutella, and my tastebuds were transported to France without so much as moving my feet.

One of the more memorable meals I enjoyed while in Lao was at the widely-heralded L'Elephant Restaurant, also in Luang Prabang. I had my only green salad of the trip (I pretty much avoided raw veggies due to the largely questionable water sources used to wash them) - and it was such a treat, I was tempted to order a second just to get my green fix. It was chock full of watercress and baby lettuces, roasted tomatoes stuffed with an array of herbs, toasted goat cheese croutons... heaven. And for my main course, I had a baked eggplant dish bathed in fresh tomato sauce, herbs and handmade goat cheese. I skipped dessert in lieu of more bread, of course! There were about ten of us at the table, and this lovely multi-course meal, complete with French wine, came to a whopping 2.5 million kip (sounds impressive - but that equates to only about $30 per person!). It was the most expensive meal (if you can even call it that) that I enjoyed on the entire trip. Bon appetite, for sure!

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