Simon Majumdar takes us to Luang Prabang for a memorable fine dining experience.
Luang Prabang provided the most enjoyable few days of our monthlong travels around Southeast Asia. This part of the world leaves a lasting impact, even on the most experienced of travelers. The region offers a bewildering variety of eating opportunities, ranging from the most humble of street stalls to fine-dining experiences on par with anywhere on the planet.
A small town of about 60,000 people sits at the intersection of the Mekong River and the smaller Nam Kahn River. It offers a gentle pace, and a rich religious and royal history that shows itself in a variety of well-maintained temples and palaces, as well as remnants of French-inspired architecture from its colonial background. It also offers a wide-ranging cuisine that was once so revered its cooks were summoned to prepare meals in the royal kitchens. The food in Luang Prabang provides enough options to cover every budget and craving, whether you’re in the mood for street food, cocktails or a gourmet dinner.
On the last night of our travels we treated ourselves to a meal that proved to be not only one of the best from our whole trip, but also one of the best for the year.
Chef Bongkoch “Bee” Satongun already has a hugely successful Michelin-starred restaurant, Paste, located in Bangkok. However, hailing originally from Laos, she wanted to expand to her homeland and has now opened a second location at the Apsara Hotel in Luang Prabang. Satongun has been named the “Best Female Chef in Asia 2018” by Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants, and from what we tasted during our meal, this new restaurant is only going to further bolster that reputation.
The meal was filled at every turn with the sort of hot, sweet, sour and salty flavors that make Southeast Asian cuisines so adored. Dishes included aromatic sticky rice, salads of cured eggplant with local herbs, and pork belly cooked in fermented fish broth and then cooked in coconut cream, sour plums and banana chili. Best of all, Paste offered my top bite of the year: a small rice cracker topped with roasted quail, a salty and sour dressing, and crisp fried shallots.
Paste was the sort of fine-dining experience that would impress anywhere in the world, let alone a country. Like Paste, I predict Luang Prabang will soon become a fine-dining destination in its own right.
To learn more about Chef “Bee” visit pastelaos.com