San Francisco, CA (June 29, 2013) — The Center for Lao Studies will sponsor their first Lao cooking class in the Bay Area in an effort to establish Lao food’s place in Asian cuisine.
“A Taste of Laos,” is being held Friday at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church from 1 to 6 p.m. (combined cooking class and tasting) is as much about educating the public about Lao culture through its unique and delicious cuisine as it is about laying claim to the food that is rightfully theirs.
For decades, Lao food has been mistaken for Thai food. Most Bay Area restaurants that serve Lao food, or have Lao cooks, have marketed themselves as Thai. According to the Center for Lao Studies’ Executive Director Dr. Vinya Sysamouth, Lao restaurant owners did this because “they were afraid people wouldn’t know what Lao food was and didn’t want to risk losing customers.”
“One reason for holding the Lao cooking classes is to change this kind thinking and show people what Lao food is, and why we as a community need to be proud of it,” proclaimed Dr. Sysamouth.
The timing couldn’t be better. There is a growing interest in everything that is Lao – from the country to the food. For one, Laos is no longer insular. Since the 1990’s, the country has become a bigger international economic player, most notably joining the World Trade Organization in 2013. And tourism is booming, with tourist arrivals up 22% annually. This year Laos was awarded “World’s Best Tourist Destination 2013” by the European Council on Tourism and Trade, and was the New York Times’ top choice of places to go in 2008.
Locally the tide is changing as well. Yelp.com, a popular on-line review site – which had been previously petitioned (unsuccessfully) by the Lao community to add a category specifically for Lao food – recently made the change, adding a “Laotian” food category on its site for the first time. “We’re very excited about this change, even though they incorrectly labeled the food as ‘Laotian’ instead of ‘Lao,’ but it is a start and we have to build from here.” Dr. Sysamouth added. Bay Area restaurants are also changing. The popular Champa Garden restaurant in Oakland now advertises itself as “Lao Champa Garden,” instead of “Lao, Thai, and Lue” as they did in the past.
The Center for Lao Studies wants to build on this momentum by bringing the cuisine to the greater public and one way we can do this is by educating them through cooking classes. The one-day event will feature lessons by Lao YouTube cooking sensation Nana from “Cooking With Nana” at www.youtube.com /watch?v= yvURUApxcLc as well as other local Lao chefs, teaching traditional Lao dishes such as laab (minced meat salad), tam maak huung (spicy green papaya salad), kang no may (bamboo shoot soup), and mok paa (fish steamed in banana leaves). A tasting and demonstration of Lao food will be open to the public following the class.
Tickets are $20 per person for the cooking class and $5 and up for the tasting and demonstrations. For a complete list of Lao dishes and cooking schedule, please visit www.laostudies.org.