Emma Harbridge and Sim Cheunghane
I feel that I shouldn’t tell you how to make laab, because I hope for you to find your own way to make it. Until today I had not even known how to make my mum’s laab. I instead went to my dear and old friend Sim and decided to learn how to make it with her. Why has it taken me so long to ask my mum how to make laab? What were these invisible barriers that I could feel weighing down on me?
Sometimes it’s hard to ask about these things. Food can bring back memories of labour, the company that came with those meals. Although my mum’s face lights up when she tells me that laab has always been her favourite Laosian dish to make, I can’t help but also be reminded that she made those meals on her own. When I tell her of my love for cooking, she reminds me of how lucky I am to have housemates who will help me set up the table and clean the dishes afterwards.
I ask her to remind me of the array of dishes she would make laab alongside with. She recounts, som tum, lots of cabbage leaves, jeow, BBQ beef and ox tongue… I tell her of a bright and clear memory of mine; an intricately patterned red, blue and black rug laid over our lounge room floor; a wide cluster of Laosian food served on deep blue china. My sister, my childhood friends and my chubby legs crossed over the seam of the rug, ready to dig in. Mum laughs, she tells me that what I remember would have just been take out; we definitely had nam khao, and nam khao is too hard to make. I realise that I had expected her to tell me that this was a ritual that she had carried out over a long time; something that would have made me feel like I fitted in with a common narrative that I had heard many times before. She senses that I’m disappointed, but I smile and say, oh okay, that’s nice, and realise that an abundance of takeout is as sweet and as real of a memory as any other.
In my Strathfield kitchen, our hair dangles over our cheeks as Sim and I lean into the bowl, smelling the aromatic cloud of lime and nam pla. We brush the roasted rice off the mortar and fold it into the assortment of mushrooms, chilli and herbs. We speak through aw’s and mm’s. Before we even take a spoonful each we both see each other through an unspoken language. We are in a time far away but one that is also so close. Being there with my dear friend in this kitchen that I call home, I know we couldn’t have arrived in this new-founded moment of knowing without the other.
Rice Paper Rolls Emma Harbridge and Sim Cheunghane
We’re pretty much all set, hey?
Eee yesss nearly!
Kettle just clicked over so these noods
will only be a couple more mins!
I’ll get a pan ready for the water
I’m done chopping up these cucs btw
So many plates already lmao
Lmao yes always
Think I’ll grab a platter so we can fit it with
the carrots, lettuce and mint
Totally forgot the coriander!!
I’ll wash some!!!
I’ve already eaten so much of this
tofu tho hehe
Mum brought over some of these
burdock root nuggety things from
cabra that could also be tasty in it??
v keen to try some!
Happy to put literally anything in
Do you have any sweet chilli btw?
Like I usually put PB, hoisin, sweet chilli
and a whole lotta lime
but it’s all good
it’ll still v be tasty
I’m so excited xx
Me too ✧*。