Food is not only a key ingredient and an essential need of our life. It is also a tool to showcase a culture, tradition, customs, and the way of life of a country. Lao food is no exception. It is known not only for its flavor, but also for its name. Lao people name their dishes in a very special way, such as to fit an occasion for good luck. Many people know Lao food for being unique, spicy and very tasty. That was one of the reasons why Thai food stylist of Karb Studio Suthipong Suriya wanted to make a Lao cookbook that showcases not only the many original, great Lao dishes from Luang Prabang, the former royal royal capital of Laos, but also the photos that capture the way of life of Luang Prabang people.
Suthipong, who writes a food column for several Thai magazines, has a passion in cooking at a young age. He assisted his mother in cooking Lao food. Suthipong was born in Nong Khai, Thailand, but his father was from Vientiane, Laos. He was raised in a bi-cultural environment, Thai and Lao. Besides being a creative food stylist, Suthipong is also a great photographer;he captures the ways of lives of the people and the regions he has visited. Since his job requires a lot of traveling and tasting different kinds of foods, he has had experiences with all varieties, but felt in love with Luang Prabang dishes, perhaps because of his Lao descent. He started to travel back and forth between Luang Prabang and Bangkok, Thailand, for several months to really understand the Luang Prabang way of life and, its people.
He said, "I traveled to Luang Prabang, back and forth for three-four months before writing this cookbook. While I was in Luang Prabang, I got a chance to learn from a true master of Luang Prabang cooking, Vandara is a great chef; her aunt was an assistant to Phia Sing, who was the master chef for the Luang Prabang Royal Palace. I got to learn and witness the ways of life of the Luang Prabang people, how they live their daily life based on , finding true happiness with nature and simplicity."
In response to VOA's question of why he chose Luang Prabang dishes as the theme for his cookbook, Suthipong said, "In general, Lao and Thai foods are about the same but Luang Prabang dishes are more special, because they were food for the King, Queen and the Royal Families. Luang Prabang dishes are very delicate and there is a unique way to prepare them, which is quite different from other Lao dishes that you & I have known."
Suthipong Suriya's cookbook, "Food and Travel: Laos," received the best Foreign Cookbook Award in Madrid, Spain, in 2007. This competition was chosen among 107 countries and in 44 languages. Suthipong said he was very honored and proud to be selected among the many great authors from different countries that submitted their works.
Suthipong said he wanted his Lao cookbook to be completely different from other cookbooks that are out there in the markets. He wanted it to be more than a mere cookbook, but a documentary that showcases not only the flavorful and delicious food of a county, but also its culture and people, as well as its architectural splendors. "Really, food is an essential part of our life, it is what we are, how we live and work. I don't want my cookbook to be an ordinary cookbook that sits in a kitchen, but one that its owner is proud to show it in his/her living room where people can pick it up, read it and learn from it."
Talking about his future project, Suthipong said, "My future plan is to cover a different part of Laos, its food and its region, perhaps Champassack in southern Laos. I am also interested in writing about the former royal family. It has a unique and interesting story behind it."
To listen to Suthipong's interview in Lao, click on our audio files.