While meat dishes are privileged in much of Lao cuisine today insofar as it is seen as a representation of social status, it was a privilege indulged by very few in the past. Many years ago, Lao people, especially in the northern parts of the country, typically ate what they could hunt and forage. As it was more often the case that wild animals were harder to come by, and that plants were more readily procurable, a small number of vegetable-heavy dishes have sprung up and are quite widely celebrated today despite the high availability of meat.
Enter Joop Phak, an original Xieng Khouang salad comprising, very much in the spirit of meat-scarce times, anything that is currently available on the market such as long beans, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and sesame seeds. But the beauty of the dish is that the preparer has creative license to put any seasonally available vegetables like wild paddy field vines and exotic gourds into the mix. Once a thoughtful trickle of fermented fish sauce (padek) is infused into the salad, this pescatarian-friendly invention is sure to appeal to all tastes buds alike.
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