I ate a lot spring rolls in Laos, in part because I can’t eat wheat flour (though baguettes were plentiful, a holdover from the French colonization of Laos, they were not for my consumption), in part because they were just so good. The rolls above were filled with fresh greens like lettuce and mint, stuffed full of shredded banana heart and bean sprouts, and rounded out with an egg and some vermicelli rice noodles. But there were others, served warm and smothered in fried garlic – light airy rice crepes folded like an envelope around a pocket of cooked pork and mushrooms. Like this:
And the same warm roll, but mid-steaming, an egg is cracked over the crepe and cooks along with the rice flour:
These rolls were the perfect meal or snack, served at rickety tables with plastic chairs, eaten so tightly squeezed in that I barely had enough room to lift my hands to my mouth. Sitting alongside women on their way home from work or kids who wanted an afternoon snack, I savoured each and every one of these rolls. Dipped into a light peanut-tinged sauce, spicy and tangy all at once, they are made by pouring batter on a steamer like this:
One by one, this woman would methodically steam her rice crepes and serve them to her patient customers. Well worth the wait.
There’s another iteration of the spring roll in Laos, the fried version. Equally available in vegetarian or pork varieties (and in Luang Prabang, chicken too!), the rolls are folded, deep fried and piled high in a greasy pool of awesomeness.
But it wasn’t all about the rice rolls. There was soup to be had!