LEADERS - not followers

Thursday, December 4, 2008



“So you want to try PLAR LAR?
Come out with me, in my boat;
we’ll have some fun, catching fish,
now the rain has stopped falling.
Here’s a bottle of LAO KHAO…
it’ll put hairs on your chest;
take your mind off the journey.”

“You know I don’t like LAO KHAO…
go on then…just a small one…
By the way…where are the rods?”

Floodwater concealed the banks;
turned river into ocean.
As the current slowed, I dared
to loosen my vice-like grip…
could have been thanks to LAO KHAO.

When we came across a weir,
we secured the boat; got out.
On the downstream side, were nets,
attached to lengths of bamboo.
Some contained fish; some empty.

Bemused by the sight, at first,
I watched more; began nodding.

Every few minutes, a fish,
attempting to jump the weir,
would land in the makeshift nets,
thrashing about, to escape,
before giving up the fight.

We watched from a safe distance,
shaded by Tamarind trees;
picking the unripened fruit,
dabbing them in a mixture
of sugar and chilli flakes.

Face-contorting, bitter-sweet.
Enough to turn you to drink.

“Pass me the LAO KHAO, quickly;
gotta wash this taste away.”

That was a stupid mistake.
Felt like my mouth was on fire.

“You should chase it with water.”

“You should have said earlier.”

To cut a long story short,
we headed back with our catch,
feeling rather giddy, from
rocking boat, LAO KHAO, combined.

His wife spent the afternoon
gutting , beheading the fish,
removing tails, fins and scales,
and adding handfuls of salt.

The fish were placed in stone pots,
capped with mosquito netting

Two weeks later; inspection.
Sickly, sweaty, fishy smell.
Scrape off, discard top layer,
scooping out any maggots
infesting the rotting flesh,
add more salt to witches brew,
leave to fester for a year,
before the ‘sauce’ is declared fit
for human consumption.

Pass me that LAO KHAO bottle!

PLAR LAR – Isan-style fish sauce.
An essential cooking ingredient/condiment.
Considered a delicacy.

LAO KHAO – Very potent, Rice Liquor