River weed

What could be more appetizing than “crispy Mekong River weed”? We found a street vendor selling these packages while searching for fish at the morning market in Luang Prabang, Laos. Feeling a bit adventurous we tried the unusual snack at a nearby restaurant and found it quite tasty. The locals call this filamentous algae khai paen, which literally means “skin of the stone,” since it grows along the banks of the Mekong River. Villagers seasonally gather the river weed, combine it with garlic, tomato and sesame seeds, press it into sheets, and dry it in the sun. The dried sheets are eventually cut into squares and fried to make the popular crispy snack. It makes a person wonder what delicious treats might be growing locally right under their own nose.