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OP: Traditional Recipes of Laos

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by Phia Sing
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Alan Davidson (1924–2003) is most remembered as a leading figure in the field of food history. His interest in cuisine, however, began while serving as British ambassador to Laos in the years after WWII. During that time, he developed a keen interest in the region’s foodways, particularly in its fish. In 1974 while researching his second book, Fish and Fish Dishes of Laos, he met with Prince Souvanna Phouma, a notable fisherman. During this meeting, Davidson inquired about traditional Laotian dishes, and the prince produced two notebooks of recipes left to him by the former chef to the royal family, Phia Sing (c.1898–1967).

Davidson had two photocopies of the manuscript made—one for the National Library in Vientiane and one for his own use. In 1981, his publishing house, Prospect Books, printed the manuscript in facsimile along with the English translation on the facing page. Traditional Recipes of Laos remains one of the few books on Laotian cuisine that has ever crossed our paths.

You will find:

  • Or lam sin kuay—water buffalo stew—hearty, spicy, and herbaceous
  • Kanab Pa Gnon—catfish stuffed with a paste of pounded chilis, lemongrass, and pork then folded into a banana leaf and grilled
  • No non nang—bamboo shoots cooked in yanang leaf juice and seasoned with fish sauce 

Editorial notes from the translators as well as the meticulous cultural commentary included by Davidson establish a rich contextual landscape for an extremely worthwhile book for those interested in the cuisines of Southeast Asia. Sections on ingredients and equipment illuminate further traditional methods.

We are pleased to offer a 1981 paperback in Very Good Minus condition. The cover, front and rear, bears a fair amount of creasing but isn’t missing any paper. The interior is clean and the binding tight. For many years, later printings omitted the original Laotian text until a 2012 reprint was issued. We are happy to report that ours includes it.

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