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A Laos cooking class. Given my unfamiliarity with the cuisine, everything was remarkably easy to prepare, which I’d guess is down to the excellent instruction and inherent simplicity of the dishes.

First up was a trip to the market, which was the usual South East Asian chaos, colour, and piles of meat kept in 25 degree heat. All the really weird bits of meat too – apparently, Laotians are big on their offal and blood. Very much a waste-not, want-not culinary society. Indeed, the heart is the most expensive cut of meat here, because (rather logically) it’s small and there’s only one per animal.

Also at the market that day, doing his bit for globalisation, was the man from Knorr, going around offering omlette and steamed rice from their instant packets. Didn’t seem to be a big hit.

Pestle and mortar played a big role, as did a blisteringly hot charcoal fire.

Oddest ingredient was buffalo bile, intended to provide a bitter note to the buffalo lime chili lemongrass salad. I smelt the creepy brown liquid and decided that mine would be just fine without.

Also on the menu: chicken and herb stuffed lemongrass (gently make a series of slices along the lemongrass stalk to create a “basket”, then bash together herbs and spices and chicken, and spoon the mix into the basket and deep fry), fish in a banana leaf (bash together herbs and spices, stir in fish slices, put into leaf packet and steam) and a coconut milk red rice pudding with fruit and tamarind sauce.

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