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Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures Of A Food Tourist In Laos Hardcover – March 30, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
Although the treatise of a royal chef (Phia Sing, Traditional Recipes of Laos) is a touchstone for her journey, more often the passport into ordinary kitchens and family dinners is her genuine curiosity and readiness to roll up her sleeves to chop, pound, simmer, and taste. Her experiences certainly ring true and at least partially timeless; in 2014 I could easily identify some of the specific places, situations, and foods described in the narrative from 2000.
The context for this exploration of cuisine is a backpacker-style trip of simple pleasures and no frills, which accords with the author's bohemian upbringing. This approach also meets Laos on its own terms - humble and full of life. If the annoyances (bugs, no mattress, Golden Triangle drug tourists, a loathsome millionaire sexual predator) seem too daunting, people with an interest in following her footsteps should know that it is also possible to journey in greater comfort and still eat authentic food in selected locales that have more tourism infrastructure. If using the book as a guide to specific foods, one could wish for an index. In compensation, there is a helpful appendix to (UK) sources of ingredients for those wishing to recreate the numerous recipes, and a list of reference works for further exploration.
I now even have some recipes I can use...and they are good recipes put into the context of where she learned them. That is the best part. I love the way she sketches different things that she sees such as the vegetable gardens along the Mekong, the faces and garb of the hill tribe women she meets and the post slaughter image of a turkey that she later enjoyed. Her description of the children she meets in the countryside and their laughter is so spot on and haunting. The book is a contemporary masterpiece on Southeast Asian culture for foreign readers, like me. I have yet to read a book of the food/travel genre that tells part of the Southeast Asian experience any better than this.....especially for lovers of food and Southeast Asian culture like myself.
Of course food is the constant unifying theme of this book. I was moved by it to buy a fairly full set of Lao cookery and ingredients (possible, more or less, here in New York) and try out some of her recipes, and they really are great. But--and I'm really not exaggerating when I say this--the non-foodie reader who really wants to know about life in Laos today will get more from this book than from almost any other book on the subject.
This book is largely the record of a love affair: that of the authoress with a people, culture, and lifestyle she is clearly crazy about. But it is not naive: on the contrary there is throughout a very open and realistic description of all the evils she comes across. Litter, dishonesty, corruption, even, in one horrifying passage, an attempted rape, all put in an appearance: and it is because her love for Lao culture survives these encounters that we believe her, that we accept her overwhelmingly positive account as mature judgement rather than infatuation.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was a pretty interesting read and kept my interest through its entirety. I have the attention span of a fly, but was able to read it continuously on a 4 hour flight. Read morePublished on January 26, 2014 by Shana Nokham
The author loves food and loves Laos, which really helped me in a recent bike trip through the country. Read morePublished on February 2, 2013 by Barbara Bennett