About 6 years ago I worked for a not for profit in Laos as their finance person. Laos is an absolutely stunning country and one you should definitely have on your list. It is such a contrast to the other countries around it. I remember the first time I flew in to the capital Vientiane from Hanoi. I remember getting of the plane and just feeling the relaxed vibe sink in. Hanoi is amazing but it is such a chaotic place. Vientiane is much smaller and sleepier and just what you need after Hanoi chaos. And if Vientiane is not relaxed enough then you can always head to Luang Prabang, where I dare anyone to feel stressed.
I lived in a beautiful restored warehouse that had been converted in to flats. My one bedroom flat was not vast but it was more than big enough for me except for the kitchen. I had a microwave and a little 2 ring electric cooktop. Mind you I wasn’t that in to cooking back then. This was in part because I lived right next door to a local restaurant that sold fabulous food, much cheaper than I could make it.
Not only was the food fabulous but the family that owned the restaurant were just so lovely and welcoming. I was invited along with two of my friends to join in their family occasions which was just so special. There were serious communication issues with language differences, but it is amazing how much you can share with a good meal and some Beer Lao.
One thing I do wish is that I had gotten them to show me how to make my favourite noodle dish. I used to order it at least twice a week. I never even knew the proper name of dish as it was written in Lao and they use a unique Lao script that looks nothing like English. I have been craving this noodle dish and from my investigations, I think it was what I have seen called drunken noodles on the internet.
There was much umming and ahhing on my part about which drunken noodle recipe looked most like the one I ate in Laos. There were some quite healthy looking options that had too many veggies. Other recipes contained ingredients that I knew weren’t in the original dish. I ended up going with this recipe from average betty website. It says it is Jet Tila’s recipe but I had no idea who he is. I have since looked him up and it sounds like he is someone American readers will know? He just hasn’t made it regularly on to Australian TV yet – at least not the free kind that I watch. I was a bit dubious about the tomato but otherwise it seemed like a close match.
The first time I made the average betty recipe I went a bit heavy on the noodles and while it tasted beautiful, the calories were just over the top. The second time I made it I couldn’t get the really thick noodles at the local Asian grocer but the serving size was much better and the taste was still fabulous. It just didn’t look quite like I remembered. Isn’t it interesting how much we eat with our eyes. I have had a look for rice noodle recipes on the internet and it seems fairly straightforward to make my own so will give that a go in the not too distant future.
This recipe is different from Pad Thai in taste. The sauce is thicker and more smoky tasting. It has a great mix of sweet and salty flavours that combine beautifully. The chicken is cooked very quickly so it is still lovely and tender.
To make this recipe for one (and not overload on noodle calories) I used:
- 1 tbs soy sauce (the recipe says black soy sauce and I have assumed this is the soy sauce you normally see)
- 1 tsp kecap manis (the recipe says sweet soy sauce and from my google investigations I think kecap manis is very close if not the same thing – it may just be a bit thicker than some sweet soy sauces)
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- ½ tbs fish sauce
- 1 tbs peanut oil
- 3/4 tsp of minced garlic (equals three quarters of a clove)
- 125g of chicken breast, thinly sliced against the grain and skin off
- 1/8 of an onion, sliced
- 80g of fresh rice noodles, separated
- ¼ of a cup of Thai basil leaves (the second time around I used regular basil, as I couldn’t find Thai basil where I was shopping and it was ok but not as good so do get Thai basil if you can)
- ¼ medium tomato
- 1/8 tsp of white pepper
I skipped the egg that the original recipe includes as that was definitely not in my Laos memory bank. I don’t think it needed the egg and to make this for one would have required half an egg which is always problematic.
Aside from skipping the egg, I followed the recipe given. It is such a great work night dinner recipe in term of time to make as it only takes about 10 minutes to make including heating up the oil. Preparation time is only about 10 minutes so you can have this ready to eat in about 20 minutes. Even with removing the egg, it is still not super low calorie – about 580 calories per serve. So not a meal to eat every night but not a complete diet buster.
And of course the recipe has one of my most favourite attributes – it is a true one pot dinner. Unless of course you are going to go all healthy on me and suggest a side of vegies.