Five-year-old breakfast

In September 2001, I was hanging around Vientiane, Laos, with Laurie and three of our friends. Despite abject poverty, an autocratic bandit government, occasional terrorist bombings, and festering wounds from being used as a punching bag by the US during the Vietnam war, Laos is the most relaxing place I’ve ever been. You can sit by the Mekong river all day yawning and drinking fruit shakes.

One day I had breakfast outside the morning market. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time:

> The market doesn’t sell food, but vendors just outside the grounds do, and a woman making tiny summer rolls caught my eye. She spread rice flour batter on a griddle, then covered it to steam the skins. Each skin was spread onto a work surface (a banana leaf, actually), topped with minced pork and herbs, and rolled up. I bought a dozen, which she placed on a china plate with some slices of tofu and began to mix a dipping sauce.

> Into a dish went fish sauce, ground peanuts, and a squeeze of lime. She asked, by pointing, whether I wanted minced chiles, and I must have nodded vigorously, because the sauce came out quite spicy. I took a pair of chopsticks and sat at a nearby table with the rest of my party, who were already engrossed in pineapple-lime fruit shakes. The summer rolls were fifty cents (which, thanks to hyperinflation, is 5000 Lao kip), and I supplemented them with a few sesame-studded doughnuts.

At the time I had no idea what this dish was called, and I’ve never seen it again. Then, I was reading Austin of RealThai’s report from Hanoi, and there it was. The Thai name is *khao kriap paak maw*, so I assume the Lao name is similar. I’ll have to remember this next time I’m in Vientiane.