Laos spices things up with unique cuisine

The Toronto Star | Thursday, February 17th, 2011

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LUANG PRABANG, LAOS—The irony of Joy’s name doesn’t escape me as he sighs and trudges over to my cooking station to show me, once again, how to stuff the ground chicken mixture into the cut stalk of lemongrass. In all fairness, Joy is a Lao chef and cooking instructor, not a saint.

Moments earlier I had been happily exuding the confidence of a domestic goddess in pulverizing the meat with herbs via mortar and pestle, discovering my knack for culinary skills that require only brute force. Anything that requires dexterity, delicacy, finesse, coordination or patience however. . . Read on…

Venerable Vietnam

The Toronto Star | Saturday, October 9th, 2010

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HA GIANG, VIETNAM—The internal struggle is visible in the old man’s eyes. He can’t hold back any longer.

Curiosity wins over propriety. Grabbing Chris’ arm hair, he gives it a firm tug. Giggles and excited chatter erupt from the crowd.

For the people of remote Ha Giang, this isn’t a typical day at the market.

The province of Ha Giang is 300 kilometres from the capital of Hanoi in Vietnam’s mountainous north, bordering China. It is home to a multitude of hill tribes, dubbed “montagnards” by the French. Heading to this region is something I’ve wanted to do since seeing a photo of a Black Hmong girl, face beaming and dressed in an exuberantly colourful tribal outfit. The photo was a revelation about Vietnam’s astounding diversity, a window into a country with a total of 54 recognized ethnic groups. Read on…