The people of Laos, a country located in southeastern Asia between Thailand and Vietnam, eat a profusion of fresh fruits and vegetables but very little meat, which makes their cuisine a healthful choice for home cooks. Since vegetable oil had to be imported, it was a costly commodity for Laotian cooks, who used herbs and spices instead to flavor their dishes. Laotian dishes are traditionally lighter than Thai ones.Simple Laotian Cooking offers 172 recipes, including a section on the traditional Lob, a dish usually made with beef but also with chicken, fish, or wild game that is reserved for holidays and special occasions. A glossary defines staple ingredients such as bamboo shoots, cilantro, coconut milk, fresh ginger, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass. The author also incorporates western ingredients in her dishes.
Penn Hongthong was born and raised in Laos. She and her older sister were in charge of cooking for the whole family, which included seven other children. Hongthong emigrated to the United States at 18 but still favors her traditional Laotian diet to this day. She regularly teaches classes on Laotian and Thai cooking near her home on Long Island, New York.