I’m having a hard time translating “seendat”. It’s inspired by Korean barbecue, so I’ll call it Lao barbecue, but using “barbecue” in this way sort of bothers me. My family is from Texas and Kansas, and to people in that region, barbecue is a very specific way of cooking beef. This dish is not at all what Texans mean when they say “barbeque”.
Maybe I should call this “Lao Grilling”, but Lao people have lots of grilled foods, and this is only one of them. Plus, seendat is not just grilled, it also includes a soup. Basically, seendat is a meal that you cook yourself at your table. The table is set like this with the seendat pan in the middle over a bucket of hot coals:
These are also brought to the table:
- Marinated beef, eggs, pork fat for greasing the pan
- Leafy green vegetables such as celery leaves, mint, cilantro, Thai basil, lettuce, and cabbage
- Thin rice noodles
- Clear broth for the soup
- Peanut dipping sauce “Cheo Suki”
- garlic, limes, and hot peppers for flavoring the soup and the sauce
When all these things arrive, you:
- Grease the grill with the pork fat and grill the meat on it
- Pour some broth into the moat and fill it with vegetables, noodles, and eggs
- Customize your peanut dip with as much garlic, lime juice, and chilies as you want
- Eat and do the whole thing again!
Lao people often say this dish is not really Lao because it come from Korea, but I disagree. Even though it was probably inspired by Korean barbecue, seendat has definitely taken on Lao flavors. Also, I met a Korean in Laos who had tried seendat and it didn’t taste Korean to her!
– the pictures in this post were taken by my brother Scott –