Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pad Thai

Here by popular demand is thePad Thai recipe I was taught by Leng at the Smile Koh Mak cookery class on Koh Mak in Thailand. All seems a long time ago now but there you go.

Other tips for perfect Pad Thai
- Soak the noodles in warm water so they're soft.
- The Pad Thai sauce you can buy from Chinese supermarkets, or you can make it by combining the ingredients listed at the top in a small saucepan, heating till the sugar is dissolved and it thickens. Coconut sugar is known as Palm sugar here - Chinese supermarkets again.
- Dried shrimps are optional, as is the pickled radish. But it does make it more tasty and authentic, and you can use chicken instead of prawns.

Alternatively go to Koh Mak and get Leng to give you a lesson.

From SEAsia 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Prayers for rain are being uttered here in SE Asia much more fervently than usual as we go into the windy and wet season. The reason is the parlous state of the Mekong River which is now dangerously low. It flows like a carotid artery through a brace of countries, starting deep in China and winding through Burma, Laos, Cambodia and finally widest and usually most impressive in Thailand and Vietnam.

Millions of people literally live and trade on it but people we spoke to in Laos say they're now seeing sandbanks they've never seen before because the water level is so low. The reason, some say, are the dams the Chinese are building upriver. The Chinese for their part say it's the low rainfall recently. And it has to be said that Laos and Thailand are both planning and building dams themselves.

Next month the Mekong River Commission, which represents Thailand Laos Vietnam and Cambodia is meeting to discuss the crisis and to ask the Chinese to give them more details of the effect of the upriver dams and to discuss what's to be done.

I took the photo above, which you'll note is also very hazy. That's because it's the burning season at the moment (farmers clear their land and set light to the vegetation) which restricts visibility to the point that aircraft can't fly. It all just adds to the sense of looming environmental disaster round these parts which is perhaps not the most positive note to end my trip on.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


A couple of years back the police in Laos stopped a motorbike headed towards the Chinese border. Their attention was caught by a pipe of a few inches in diameter strapped to the machine, which they opened and squinted down. Inside were two tiny Asiatic bear cubs, the size of human fists. The pair were destined for bear farms inside China, because there the animals bile is claimed to have a value in medicine. Their paws are also considered delicacies.

The rescued bears now live with around twenty of their kin in a sanctuary just outside the Laotian city of Luang Prabang, which is where I encountered them and their British keeper. He and his partner sold up in the UK a few years ago and in his words 'burnt their bridges'. Just as well, since the sanctuary's population of rescued bears - they don't breed them here - has shot up in recent years.

The bears in the wild are solitary but here in the big enclosures they all seem to rub along fairly happily and spend their time taking baths, playing with balls and dozing on platforms. They've been saved from a life of almost indescribable humiliation. If you're in Laos, and you're passing, drop in as they can use your support.