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Mekong Food – Snapshot of culinary cultures of the great Mekong River

Reading Time: 5 minutes



Translated & Collaborated by Dr.Manta

Mekong river is main blood stream of lives in South East Asian. Last month January 2013, a German-language book about culinary cultures of river Mekong was released. This post will explore more book is about.

The book “Mekong Food” has been written by Michael Langoth. It is an opulent splendor band on the cuisines of the Mekong Basin, which offers not only great photos and life stories, but  also recipes of menu of authentic food along Mekong.


To say roughly, the Mekong river is approximately 5,000 kilometers long and it provides support of  live for over 100 million people along the basin from China to Vietnam. In the waters of the Mekong, there are over 1,200 known species of fish, and many more are discovered each year.

From the Himalaya foothill, the river fertilizes and gives a lot of benefits to the fields and around the Delta area (south of Saigon). The fertilization from Mekong and suitable whether make three harvest of rice crops a year possible. The kitchens of the countries that border it and can feast on this wealth are of exemplary diversity.

Now Mekong fertilization is facing a little trouble  China and Laos are continue to build huge dams to provide more electricity to the nation. On one hand, this initiative sounds reasonable, but on the other hand the cycle of fertility for agriculture and for fishery activities may be affected. Those issues will be in national agendas later on. One thing for sure is when nature has been altered, lives that are associates with it may be also affected.


Living and cooking on the Mekong river


The nature of this symbiosis
Austrian photographer and writer, Michael Langoth has traveled extensively in South East Asia and know much about the areas, especially the Mekong  basin. For years, he began to document the nature of symbiosis of the region and to explore the culinary traditions that have emerged in countries along Mekong basin –  Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

In this book, he presents an splendid and remarkable illustration on how millions of people in one of the most densely populated regions of the world live in poverty but manage to provide one of the world’s most abundant source of fresh food.

Interestingly, Langoth reported that people in large cities along Mekong basin are struggling to find fresh food in supermarkets. The main reason is not that fresh food in not available, but it is  because the most fresh foods are mostly available in local market directly after fishery.

In addition, the idea to put fresh food in supermarket first is a little bit suspicious for local people because local people usually have perception that the fresh food should be available in the areas near the source rather than in supermarket. In face, most local markets are able to provide quality of the goods in competitive price.

Much of Southeast Asia remains largely in refrigerators are (and then only to beer and other drinks cool), but the food is of unparalleled freshness and intensity of flavor, like our one appear as a paradox. In fact, it is the result of a kitchen that ensures the quality of products intact.


A monk in the monastery garden of Luang Prabang in Laos


The force of a culture
Asked fishermen in mud fields, half naked in the middle of the river and hard-filled networks move, and women who do fishery on tiny boats, how they are doing. Almost all would reply life is great, however, the image tells of hard work they have, and that drives the residents. Hard work is people in Mekong basin enjoy to live. Nobody has rights to judge but seeing from the photo, despite poverty they are living on, they could be one of the happiest persons in this region.

Poverty is dominated status of people in most of the regions along Mekong basin, and it  keeps people working hard and force them to provide more value to society, otherwise they would have less income to live. This is the  force of a culture in Mekong region cause the regions to provide more foods than any region could.

Examining the book thoroughly, a good portion of the book, you will find that many receipts are worth to study. If you want to have joy of Mekong’s local experience, this book is the one. Also large portion of the book is devoted to “the high culture of the noodle soup”, together with its undisputed queen, so-called Vietnamese Pho. Pho with its fresh herbs and aromatic spices, deep and a topping of shredded raw beef fillet, mixed into the hot soup which is acclaimed to be very delicious. In the book, there are detailed explanations for filling Goi Cuon summer rolls as of Cha Gio-Nemrollen you might like.


There is one big problem after reading the book. You want to immediately plan the holiday and book the next flight to Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang and to Phnom Penh or Saigon in order to see it all as in the book, and the problem is you won’t get that trip easily. Comfortable flights are not avaible for all mentioned cities. You have to work your way through by local commutes in order to get the real tastes of Mekong. Not many people can handle it.

About the Book:
The Mekong River, the “mother of the water” is the lifeblood of Southeast Asia. With a length of almost 5,000 kilometers, the Mekong river is one of the largest river systems of the world and certainly the most pristine. Largely unspoilt shores, no significant industry and just a handful of bridges in total.

“Mekong Food” is a snapshot of the culinary cultures of the great river Mekong or “Mae Nam Khong” in Thai.  The book shows how people grow food and why the food here is well cooked. It provides insight into the various cooking techniques and the incredible variety of the best cuisines in the world. Detailed recipes show what is at stake in this culinary tradition and the benefits that one can draw from it for their own household and kitchen equipment.

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