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Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures Of A Food Tourist In Laos Hardcover – March 30, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Luscious ... her descriptions are so vivid you will want to rush off to the nearest oriental market' -- Sunday Business Post 'A charming portrayal of the people, the places, and of course the food of Laos' -- Western Morning News

About the Author

Natacha Du Pont De Bie has worked as a production assistant for a film company, a waitress, an usherette, a cameraman's personal assistant, a seamstress in a costume hire firm and as a tea lady - all by the age of 23. After holding proper jobs at Elle Decoration and House & Garden, Natacha swapped the cramped office environment for freelance styling for films and commercials. She is now a committed Food Tourist.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (March 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340825677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340825679
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,385,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
From the moment she lands in Laos and asks a customs official for the most authentic place to eat in town I was hooked on the author's cultural odyssey into the country's gastronomic soul. It's beautifully written and I found it a brave, generous book, siffused with a passion for exotic cuisine and a genuine affection for the people she encounters. Her own illustrations and a glut of tasty recipes nestle with quixotic travellers' tales and stimulating insights into the history, politics and customs of a country that is little known to the West. There are also some apposite reflections on tourism and international development.Complex and, naturally, hunger inducing. I loved it.
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Format: Paperback
This is a beautiful book about Laos, its people, and their customs. The descriptions of the food are spot-on and the recipes are a great bonus. As a transplanted Lao-American trying to recreate flavors of my past, this was quite a gem of a find. If you have any interest in Southeast Asian culture or tourism, you definitely must read this. The parts about Luang Prabang and the Plain of Jars will have you googling airfare to Laos in no time.
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Format: Paperback
Natacha Du Pont De Pie's grass-roots-level account of her culinary expedition through Laos is fascinating, enthralling, inspiring, delicious, and well written. She evokes her (mostly) warm interactions with local residents, culture, and the natural environment along the way as skillfully as she brings to life the essential smells & combinations of Lao flavors. All these things earned her deep affection, which she conveys with enthusiasm and a refreshing lack of pretention. She also adds sufficient cultural and historical context to serve as an excellent teaser for those readers for whom this book might be an introduction to this country of material poverty and human riches.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
This is easily one of the most pleasurable so called travel books I have read. I am not even finished with it yet but am spurred to share its quality with everyone. Not too much history to be opaque and distant, not too much inward introspection to be self-indulgent, not too much about the people she meets to be foreign, not too much about the geography and the journey itself to be boring and not too much about food to be blind to the rest. Everything is related at just the right tempo and you feel as if you are right there with Natacha and her new friends enjoying the journey with little tidbits of insight into everything that is Laos not just food. To her immense credit, her style of writing here comes across as real down-to-earth which paradoxically comes across expertly, or perhaps I mean comprehensible to a non-professional chef like me (but a semi-professional traveler....trying to get to the pros.)

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.
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Format: Hardcover
"Ant Egg Soup" is not merely food writing--my fear is that a lot of people who would love this insightful, fascinating description of a journey through Laos will not read it because, not being very interested in food, they will assume there's nothing in it for them. On the contrary by the time we finish this book art, politics, agriculture, all the essential features of human life will have been touched upon; mostly, however, it is the lives of the people the authoress met, sketched with wit and warmth, that one comes away from this book with. Miss DuPont de Bie seems to have been able to penetrate the interior life of the people she met; rarely have I read a travel book which felt less like peering dimly at the incomprehensible through frosted glass.

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.
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