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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Activists fight plan for first dam across lower Mekong River, in wilds of northern Laos

Dear my blog readers, go to this link and ask the Mekong River Commission to cancel Xayaburi Dam and keep the Mekong River flowing freely. Please!!!!!!!!!

By Denis D. Gray, The Associated Press – 6 days ago

BANGKOK — A plan for the first dam across the Mekong River anywhere in its meandering path through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam has set off a major environmental battle in Southeast Asia.

The $3.5 billion Xayaburi dam is slated for the wilds of northern Laos and would generate power mostly for sale to Thailand. The project pits villagers, activists and the Vietnamese media against Thai interests and the Laotian government in its hopes of earning foreign exchange in one of the world's poorest countries.

A decision on whether the dam gets the green light, is axed or deferred for further studies is expected April 19 during a meeting in the Laotian capital among Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Opponents warn it could open the way for 10 more dams being considered along the lower Mekong.

"Our lives and livelihoods depend on the health of the Mekong River," said Kamol Konpin, mayor of the Thai riverside town of Chiang Khan.

"As local people have already suffered from dams built upstream in China and watched the ecosystem change, we are afraid that the Xayaburi dam will bring more suffering."

China has placed three dams across the upper reaches of the Mekong, but otherwise its 3,000-mile (4,900-kilometre) mainstream flows free.

The Xayaburi would cut across a stretch of the river flanked by forested hills, cliffs and hamlets where ethnic minority groups reside, forcing the resettlement of up 2,100 villagers and impacting tens of thousands of others.

Environmentalists say such a dam would disrupt fish migrations, block nutrients for downstream farming and even foul Vietnam's rice bowl by slowing the river's speed and allowing saltwater to creep into the Mekong River Delta.

A Thai firm would build the 1,260 megawatt hydroelectric project. However, Thai villagers along the river are staging protests and planning to deliver letters to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Lao Embassy in Bangkok, where the Thai government has maintained an official silence on the issue.

Pianporn Deetes, of the U.S.-based International Rivers, said environmentalists are ready to take their case to court if Abhisit doesn't deliver a positive response.

Last month, 263 non-governmental organizations from 51 countries sent letters to the governments of Laos and Thailand urging that the project be shelved.

Laos said in February that the Xayaburi would be the "first environmentally friendly hydroelectric project on the Mekong" and that will "not have any significant impact on the Mekong mainstream."

"We are excited about this project," the statement said.

Vietnam's official media, in a rare disagreement with its communist neighbour, has blasted the dam, while scientists and environmental groups have called for its construction to be delayed for 10 years until more research is conducted.

"It seems that countries of the lower Mekong still haven't learned lessons from the impact of the Chinese dams," Pianporn said. "Xayaburi is so important because it could set off the destruction of the lower Mekong."

Since 2007, there have been proposals to put up 11 mainstream dams in Cambodia and Laos.

The Mekong River Commission, set up by the four Southeast Asian neighbours in 1995 to manage the river, has expressed serious reservations about Xayaburi. A study by the group recommended a 10-year moratorium on all mainstream dams, a stand supported by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a Southeast Asian trip earlier this year.

The commission cited feared damage to migrations of between 23 and 100 fish species, among a host of other environmental problems.

Another MRC document showed nobody spoke in favour of the dam during public consultations this year in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, while many officials, academics and residents cited problems or lack of information about the project. No consultation was held in Laos.

"If this project goes ahead it would be unimaginably irresponsible," said Ame Trandem of Rivers International.

Somkiat Khuengchiangsa, who has spent his life along the river and heads The Mekong-Lanna Natural Resources and Culture Conservation Network, said governments are more interested in the economics of the project than its effect on residents.

"Rivers are not the property of nations or groups of people. They belong to all mankind," he said.

Copyright © 2011 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Britney Spears's New Album - Femme Fatale

Just a couple songs to fresh up our minds this spring break!!! Yay for Britney to be back!!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spicy Shrimp Laap (Laab/Lap)

Laap (Laab, Lap) Lao is the national food dish of Laos. It is like a salad dish with meat and Thai Lao herbs tossed together. You can make Laap, fish, and shrimp; however, this is a time-consuming dish as it requires a lot of chopping. Some of the traditional ways to make laap could be found on youtube as the one below:

Even though it tastes authentic but for many people, it's too hard to make and require much time to clean up (just watch the video and you'll see). Last week, a friend of mine show me how to make a quicker version of shrimp laap which takes around 10 minutes.

All ingredients that you may need are:
  • Shrimp (1.5-2lbs)
  • Green Onions (4-5 bunches)
  • 5 fresh limes
  • Fresh Red Chili Peppers (depending on how much spicy you prefer)
  • Cilantro (1 bunch) - well - chopped
  • 2 table spoons of  Laap seasoning mix (could be found in any Asian store) 
Laap Seasoning mix
  First, star to boil and peel the shrimps:

Chop the green onions, shrimp cilantro and mix them in a big bowl:

Chopping the ingredients
Mixing the ingredients

Start cutting the limes and sqeeze their fresh juice into the mixture (Lime has a lot of benefits):
Cutting the limes

Squeezing the juice into the mixture

 For real laap, there is chooped lime leaf, however, we can't find them here so here you go:
Save the lime skin

Peel the lime skin off

Mince them really well and add to the mixture !!!!!
Add the red chili peper and mix all of them up with laap spices and 2 table spoons of Vietnamese fish sauce. This dish must be spicy, otherwise it would be tastless: 

adjust the taste with some salt and sugar and then enjoy it!!!!! You may serve it with some sticky rice and hot tea as it'll be so spicy!!!

Serving laap on a plate


A big 'Thank' to Rimi and Chue for sharing this recipe!!!

Rimi and Chue in Kitchen

Posing with a piece of lime skin

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Some Benefits of Lime/Lemon in Cooking & Bo Tai Chanh

Lime plays as an important spices in Vietnamese dishes for it enhances the freshness of food while bringing health benefits. Any Vietnamese noodle dish/soup main course (such as Pho or Bun Bo Hue, ...) is always served with a small plate of limes and red peppers. Especially in the Southern area of Vietnam, we squeeze lime in many main courses. 

The nutritional benefits of limes do not differ very much from those of lemons. They are both excellent sources of vitamin C, B6, potassium, folic acid, flavonoids and the outstanding phytochemical, limonene.

There are different many resources and information of the uses of limes/lemons if you google it. For example, from many of lime/lemon health benefits are listed:

  • Asthma:  Take a tablespoon of lemon juice at least one hour before each meal to relieve asthma.
  • Burning soles/feet: Rub a sliced lemon over the burning sole/foot/heel to relieve from pain and for toxin elimination through the pores of the feet.
  • Cholera:  The potent anti-viral properties in lime/lemon  can kill cholera bacilli within a very short period of time.  Drink one part juice and one part water regularly, especially during an epidemic.
  • Cold:  The anti-viral properties in lime/lemon fight infections and halt the progress of a cold.  Take the juice of two lemons in half a liter of hot water and add raw honey to taste.  Sip it slowly before bedtime.
  • Constipation:  Drink a glass of warm water every morning with some lime/lemon juice with raw honey.  Stir in a pinch of cinnamon powder.  This will help your body to detoxify and relieve constipation.
  • Digestion:  Lime/lemon juice have amazing digestive qualities that are very similar to our digestive enzymes.  Thus it is effectively helps with digestion and relieve bloating and belching.
  • Feet, tired:  After a long day on your feet, soak your feet in very warm water containing lime/lemon juice to enjoy the cooling, astringent feeling.  This will also help promote deep sleep due to the relaxing action on the foot nerves.
  • Gums, swollen:  Drink a glass of diluted fresh lime juice with a pinch of sea salt to relieve the pain of swollen gums.  Use the albedo (the white matter under the peel) from the squeezed lime and rub on the gums.
  • Heartburn:  Add two teaspoon of concentrated lime/lemon juice into a glass of warm water and drink to relieve heartburn.
  • Inflammatory disorders:  Even though lime/lemon juice are sour and taste acidic, it is actually very alkalinizing in the body and is highly effective in the treatment of inflammatory disorders like rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica, etc.  It also prevents the deposit of uric acid in the tissues, thus reducing the risks of gout.
  • Skin, dry:  Rub the peel of a lemon on dry or scaly skin to restore softness and add moisture to the skin.
  • Sore throat:  Mix one part lemon juice with one part water.  Gargle frequently and feel its soothing effect on the throat.  You may also add in a pinch of sea salt for added effect.
Can lime/lemon help with diet ( or help you burn fat?)

No, but it helps reduce fat storage!
I may trust what they say on the internet about the benefits of lime to reduce fat; however, I myself can't drink a glass of lime/lemon juice mixed with water without any sugar added. It's nasty!!! 

However, It's true that Limes/Lemons have high levels of citric acid, and according to Totally, citric acid is an important component of the Citric Acid Cycle (Kreb's Cycle), during which citric acid is involved in the breakdown of fats--as well as carbohydrates and proteins--into carbon dioxide and water. 

Today, I'll show you an quickly and easily-made dish in Vietnam to make use of the freshness of lime juice but very tasty!

Bo Tai Chanh - Rare Beef Marinated in Lime Sauce

(Sorry I'm lazy with the translation, so this recipe is my modified version from
5 to 10 servings 
1 lb. beef tenderloin or eye of round, sliced paper-thin against the grain
Vietnamese crab cracker (1/2 box - deep fried in hot pan)

You may add some cooked shrimp to add the red color for decoration

1/4 cup good fish sauce (nuoc mam)
3 tbsp. white sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 piece ginger, grated
1 dash dried chiles or thai bird chile, chopped fine (suit to taste)

Crushed roasted peanuts or cashews
Cilantro, chopped
Basil, shredded
Mint, shredded
Scallions, chopped or shallots, minced
Fried garlic bits
Drizzle of lime juice
1. Mix dressing ingredients until sugar is well-dissolved. Let stand for at least 10 minutes, up to overnight.

2. Add raw beef and 3/4 of dressing to a bowl and ensure all slices are in contact with dressing. Let stand about 10-15 minutes. (if you can't  stand the taste of raw beef, then quickly stir fry them in a hot pan with 1-2 spoon of olive oil)

3. Drain beef and arrange on a chilled platter. Drizzle with remaining dressing, then sprinkle with garnishes of your choice, I recommend all of them. Serve immediately on the crackers.

served with shrimp crackers!!!
This dish goes really well with some beer or wine as an appetizer!!!

Good Luck!

And try using fresh lime/lemon juice in cooking...


I said 'FRESH' !!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hot-Pan Buttered Meat Spring Rolls (Bo Lan Bo) for a Snow Day

It's been snowing for the last two days in Minneapolis, and all Minneapolis and Bloomington campuses are closed, including Augsburg. One of my classes tomorrow is also cancelled giving me more time to write about one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes in the chilling weather of Minneapolis winters: Hot-Pan Buttered Meat Rolls (or Bo Lan Bo in Vietnamese):

This dish is rather easy to prepare because there is no cooking involved until serving time (more like a Vietnamese hot pot), but required a lot of chopping. All of the ingredients that you may need is:

  • Beef (a tender type) 1-2 lbs, thin-sliced
  • Shallots, Garlics, Gingers, Jalapenos (well-chopped)

  • Vietnamese rice-noodles (boiled then washedwith cold water twice)
  • Shrimps (medium/large size for ones who likes seafood)-peeled but leave the tails for decorations
  • Vegetables (salad-any preferred type, mint, cilantro), butter (2 bars), Vietnamese Spring Roll wrappers.

Prepare the dipping sauce
There are multiple types of sauce could be used for this dish depending on your tastes. The original one has a bit stronger smell even reek for one to tolerate: Mam Nem or (Fermented Anchovy Dip):

Fermented Anchovy Dip Recipe

(Mam Nem)

Ingredients :
2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons
1 clove
1 stalk
1 teaspoon
125 ml
Fermented anchovy paste
Pineapple, finely crushed
Garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Red chili, seeded and finely chopped
Lemon grass, bulbous portion only, finely chopped
Method :
  • Combine ingredients and mix well. Bring to the boil stirring then allow to cool.
  • Serve as a dipping sauce.

For ones that can't tolerate the strong exotic taste of this sauce, replace it with just some basic Hoisin Sauce cooked with some water and peanut chunks (add a half spoon of Vietnamese Sriracha Chilli sauce if you want to make it spicy). 

First, present all the ingredients on your a dinning table with an electric hot pot in the middle of the table. Don't forget a big bowl of warm water for them to soften the spring roll wrappers. 
When the guests are seated, start to melt the butter and start adding the mixture of Shallots, Garlic and Gingers to create a tasty aroma. Then ask your guests to help them self frying any meat ingredients that they prefer (the salad and vegetable remain fresh).

Start rolling the spring rolls with different ingredients and get ready to eat and enjoy a Spring Roll Night!!!!!!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fry Healthier

Stir fried, Deep fried... basically any food that fried tastes delicious. However, in order to make them a bit healthier (less oil) but tastier, there are some simple tricks that one should know. Here are some tricks that I've been collecting, try applying them and let me know if they work for you as well.
  1. Stir Fry
  • Marinate meat/seafood with soy sauce/fish sauce/simply sea salt, black pepper, chopped garlic/onion and a few table spoon(s) of olive oil for a tastier aroma, making the meat tender. To make the meat even more tender, add some pineapple juice at the end of the cooking.
  • To reduce the fishy taste of seafood or any fish product, add some white wine/ rice wine into the marinating mixture or at the end of the stir fry process.

  • Deep the vegetable mixture into boiled water for 10-15 seconds before using it as one wouldn't need as much oil to cook them.

  • Fry vegetable and meat/seafood separately and then mix them together to make sure that they are rightly cooked ( not some gets cooked and others are overcooked).
  • Corn/Potato Starch in the sauce: This is the trick of many Asian restaurants to make their stir-fry sauce thicker. Use a table spoon corn/potato starch mixed with about 1/2-3/4 cup of cold water and add to the stir fry at the end of the cooking and maintain the fire for about 1 min, the sauce will get thicker and tastier.

2. Deep Fry
  • Add some sea salt into the oil pan in order to reduce the chance of hot oil shooting at you.
  • Deep ingredients into scrambled egg or frying flour to make the food crispier and tastier.
  • The ingredients must be completely deepened into the hot oil, they would absorb less oil.
  • Set the food on paper towels after fried.
  • For larger size ingredients such as chicken thighs, whole fish, etc., use a fork or a knife to make some deep cuts on the food to reduce the cooking time and avoid their insides being uncooked.
  • Don't reuse cooking oil! It's nasty for your health.
Good luck with making a healthier stir fried/ deep fried dish. Let me know if you have/come up with a new trick.