Project Phongsali: Elaborate preparations for a Tai Deng wedding. We learn a favorite recipe!

April 5, 2010

Day 63

At the house behind our camp our neighbors started preparation for their daughter’s wedding early.  They were up and at it before my breakfast at 7:00 AM.  While I sipped my coffee-load, I watched a group of young men pull protesting chickens from woven bamboo cages.  The birds squawked, either in protest or in fear, and flapped furiously, as if intending to carry the men away in flight. The men were undeterred; they slipped a string noose around each chicken’s neck and stung the unlucky birds in a row along a taut rope strung between trees.  The birds continued to struggle but the more they flapped and kicked, the tighter the noose drew around their necks.  Ironically, the birds that fought most fiercely for life died first; the more compliant suffered longer.  Within minutes all four chickens, three hens and a rooster, hung limp and lifeless from the rope.

A young pig died next.  It took three men to drag the scrappy boar across the yard.  He kicked furiously and occasionally succeeded in inflicting pain on a handler, but it was his squeal that was most punishing.  Truly ear piercing.

Finally, in a move I think the men should have opened with, the guys pinned the pig to the ground and roped his feet together.   Hogtied with no hope of escape, the pig cranked up the decibel level of his squeal.  The men, finally having had enough of that, found a length of twine and tied the pig’s snout shout, leaving him capable only of plaintive grunts and snorts.

That done, the men hefted the pig waist high onto a pile of logs and placed a catch pan under its neck.  One of the men drove a sharp knife into the pig’s neck and held him steady while both blood and life drained out of him.  The man with the pan caught every last drop while an assistant vigorously whipped the blood with a spoon to beat air into it.  (Admittedly, it’s an uninformed guess, but I’ll bet that beating the blood to a froth slows coagulation).

As the men worked, several women peeled fist-sized banana flower buds and sliced them into fine rings.  I’ve been invited to the wedding feast so I’m hoping that later today, after the pig has been butchered and the meat, fat, skin and innards have all been cooked in their various ways, that some of the roast pork will be shredded and combined with the banana flower to make a wonderful cold dish that I’ve never encountered elsewhere in Laos but have eaten twice here in Sop Houn, both times at weddings.   Not knowing the Lao translation of its name, I call it “roast pork and banana flower salad.”

I don’t have an actual recipe for the salad, but I’ve watched Tai Deng women prepare it and know all the ingredients.  When I get home, assuming I can find banana flower buds, I plan to work at it until I succeed in recreating the dish.  Here are the ingredients:

Lean pork: roasted and then finely shredded (considerably finer than “pulled pork”)

Banana flower buds: thinly sliced into water in which lemon halves float (to preserve color).  Drain before adding to the pork.

Family of the bride prepare a feast to celebrate their daughter's wedding.

Onion: paper-thin slices

Chili peppers: paper-thin slices

Rice powder

Mint leaves

Lemon or limejuice




Leave a Reply