A typical Lao meal isn’t complete without a Jeo – that tasty mélange combo of one’s preferred spices, vegetables and/or meat – mashed in a mortar and pestle. Many refer to Jeo as the Lao “creamy sauce” or dip.
Sometimes, a full meal can consist of just Jeo and sticky rice, and if you are lucky, a side of steamed vegetables. It’s easy to eat: dip a small ball of sticky rice into the Jeo and savour the flavours as they take over your taste buds.
But the simplicity by which it is eaten does no justice to the amount of effort and technique used to make it. The chefs at Kualao, a beautiful authentic Lao food restaurant, often must know exactly how long to grill the ingredients and how hard to grind them. And as it is prepared, tasting must happen quite frequently, as every strike of the pestle adjusts the unique flavor of the Jeo. The final product is something quite special that one must experience to understand.
Here are our Kualao’s top Jeo picks!
Jeo Bong is undeniably the most quintessential Jeo in Laos. Originally from Luang Prabang, it is loved by all Lao people for its spiciness, sweetness and composition. And like wine, it gets better with age.
Jeo Mengda is an exotic Jeo, whose primary ingredients consist of insects known as mangda or water beetles. This particular dish has a distinct aroma that invites only the daring and the bold to taste! While mangda are quite popular, other variants have included other insects like wasps and crickets.
Jeo Het Feuang is a typical Jeo that uses paddy straw mushrooms as its primary ingredient. Light and easy to eat, this Jeo is a favorite for first timers.
Jeo Maklen is Laos’s version of tomato sauce (or ketchup).Tomatoes are grilled and then mashed into a wonderfully creamy dip that goes terrifically well with the country’s famous grilled chicken.
Jeo Padaek Kheuang has a potent kick and is delightful for those who love it but brings woes to the uninitiated, primarily due to its use of fermented fish sauce, an extremely popular Lao ingredient.
Jeo Saravan hails from the southern province of Saravan and features grilled green peppers as its main attraction. This dish is great for tongue burning sensations all around!
Jeo Nor Mai Som (upon request)
This Jeo holds pickled bamboo shoots in high esteem. Once steamed, coupled with lightly grilled spring onions and peppers and seasoned with salt, this mashed bamboo Jeo will shoot right through your taste sensations!
Jeo Kapi (upon request) Perhaps the least viscous in our selection, this Jeo takes the saltiness of shrimp paste (kapi) and fuses it with the natural spiciness of peppers and spring onions. A touch of lemon and orange juice and a dash of sugar infuses a gentle element of citrus into the mix, culminating in a unique Jeo that’s savoury, sweet and sour!
Jeo Pa Sai Mak Pet Yai What do you get when you grind grilled then stir-fried fish (without the bones) and grilled bell peppers? A fantastic recipe for a mouthwatering Jeo that makes every meal memorable.
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