LAOS: What’s inside those mystery banana leaf packages?

Laos, Luang Prabang, Steamed banana leaf, street food
Inside the third package

Another day, another misadventure which, in hindsight, was highly preventable.

The large bowl of pho you’d just had for lunch was not quite enough to satisfy your roving eye, and a woman’s basket of little banana leaf packages proved too tempting to pass up. You pick three at random and ask the price, to which the woman raises an eyebrow.

This should have been your first indication that everything wasn’t going in the direction you would have liked it to.

“Hok phan,” She says, still looking confused.

Oblivious to her body language, you smugly hand over the exact amount and set off back to the hostel- which was the second mistake: witnesses are almost always a bad thing when you aren’t in control of the situation.

It quickly became apparent why the woman seemed so puzzled; the first package was a double-wrapped cube of raw pig fat.

The second package was also double-wrapped, and again contained a small quantity of raw pig fat, but this time with a single chilli included.

With a world-weary sigh you opened the last package to find a little cylinder of cooked rice stuffed with fatty bacon. Then you notice that the final package was the only one with obvious signs of having been cooked. The banana leaf was dark and wilted from the steamer, whereas the previous two were crisp and bright green.. I am an idiot.


    • I drowned myself in coconut rice cakes (which didn’t come wrapped in banana leaves) and left the meat packages in the hostel kitchen.. I’ll throw it out at the end of today, but I’m still hoping someone will use them.

  1. Had an encounter with The Parson’s Nose off a street vendor in Khaosan District, Bangkok. Judging by the volume of meat on sticks, there are an awful lot of noseless parsons in SE Asia…

  2. Hahahahah well you couldn’t know! I actually had a similar experience: when I was in China I used to eat a lot of those sticky rice and meat wrapped up in a banana leaf things at my homestay and they were so delicious! One time I’d buy some from a street vendor to discover later on that they had to be cooked … and that was the only thing I had with me as a “packed lunch” that time so I definitely had to skip lunch. haha

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