One of my personal favorite markets, the Laos Market at 317 Butternut St., will be having a free tasting on Saturday, March 30 from 12-2 pm.
When I was new to the Northside, over a year ago, I tried to get to know the neighborhood by exploring corner stores. At the Laos Market, packages of brightly colored, exotic foods stretched to the ceiling. As I gazed around, I became a little overwhelmed. All the flavors of Southeast Asia seemed neatly stuffed into every corner. Boxes of Aloe Vera drink (which tastes great mixed with coconut soda and raspberry sorbet, by the way) overflowed onto the stairs. Yet, I scarcely knew what to do with shrimp paste, which type of curry paste to select, or what to use shredder green papaya for.
Luckily, over the last few months, I have had the privilege of getting to know the owners of the Laos Market. Because of their advice, I have started adding locally grown oyster mushrooms to soups. I use small green eggplants in many dishes, and I know how to make my own bubble tea. When I am in a hurry, I even know how to make a variety of instant noodles more flavorful and healthy (hint: add a generous helping of fresh Thai basil, a few fresh vegetables, and lemon grass).
I find myself in the Laos Market more and more frequently these days. Although I am familiar with the setup of the store now, I still find new things to try. My next culinary adventure will involve Thai mussels. My friends at the store are always happy to tell me how to use different ingredients, and I feel I learn something about Laotian culture every time I visit. For example, I recently learned that the Laos New Year is coming up on April 12 and the fact that people hold chop sticks differently in different areas. As for this last tidbit, it took me long enough to master the style I adopted, and I tried the more Laotian technique with no success.
I am excited for the tasting. I know how much I have enjoyed my lunches at the market, and I think everyone else will too. There will be samples of Thai and Laotian food. The market will be decorated with traditional items and images from Laos. There will also be recipes and cooking tips available. Thanks to the help of the Laos Market, I make much better curries now (it had to do with the addition of the right coconut milk and fresh bean sprouts). Don’t miss this event! If you are able to attend, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org and provide the number of people arriving with you. On March 30, you will have an excellent opportunity to taste new dishes and get all the tools necessary to make them yourself, at home.