Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hot Pot Lau

Lau is a Vietnamese staple, and a few weeks ago a group of students came over to make it for me.  They were very cool about it.  One student offered to make me lunch, and I think about eight or nine of them showed up at my door.  It was alright though.  They brought everything to make Lau with them.  I explained to them that I literally had nothing to cook with in my apartment.  I've been lazy about buying cooking supplies, utensils, plates, bowls, or even cups.  I mostly drink Tang (Tang is the closest thing to orange juice I can find) out of the side of a pitcher.  I think I've been lazy, because to eat out in Dalat costs less than a dollar for a full meal, to cook for one person costs about the same.  So they got right to it.  They started to break down all the vegetables, cut up the chicken, and boil the broth all while squatting on the floor.  The Vietnamese seem to have no problem squatting here.  While some prepared the Lau, I entertained the others, I guess.  I had them go through my music collection and see if their was anything they might like to hear.  My one student Muan asked me if I had "I will survive."  I did, so I played the only version I had, Cake's cover of the song.  They seemed to dig it, and my one student sang along.  Some of the other students were curious as to what my "Perfect Push-ups" were.  Yes, I brought them.  I figure they were the one ridiculous item I carried twelve thousand miles around the world, so I don't feel too weird about it.  All my students gave them a try.  None of them could use them.  I played them some more music, and they kept asking if I had Taylor Swift, apparently she's popular in Vietnam.  They weren't into The Pogues.  They definitely weren't digging Sabbath.  But they didn't mind the Zappa.  I'm considering that an initial success.

The way Lau is eaten is you keep a pot boiling on a burner in the middle of a circle.  You put some of the ingredients in the pot and some noodles in your bowl.  You pour the broth and some of the veggies and meat over the noodles and it cooks them.  Rinse and repeat as necessary.  As the Lau in the pot starts to run out you just add more ingredients and the broth builds itself back up.  Their seemed to be an order to things.  It seemed like we started with the rice noodles and the greens, then more noodles with some meat, then more noodles with less greens and more meat, then wheat noodles, and the process started over.  It was cool, it's a very communal way to eat.  At the end we polished everything off with some tart-mango, which is just unripened mango, and some "dragon's eye."  Dragon's eye are little fruits that grow on trees in Southeast Asia and they are so named because they resemble eyeballs.  You have to peel them and then suck off the gooey whitish substance that surrounds the pit.  It sounds really appetizing, I know, but they taste good too.  I actually like them a lot so I have been buying them at the market.  All in all, it was a pretty good Saturday.  The students seem happy just to be spending time with you, and hell I got free lunch, so you can't beat that.

1 comment:

  1. I think this type of meal must exist in some form or another in just about every east asian country. Japan has it's own versions. Nabe and Shabu Shabu come to mind.