In Lao, the words “kohk” and “sahk” translate to “mortar” and “pestle”, respectively. They are ubiquitous and mandatory cooking equipments found in all Lao kitchens. The duo can be described as the rustic yet very effective Lao version of the electric blender and grinder. They’re forever used to pound and grind herbs and spices, and also prepare a myriad of Lao dishes, including the classic/famous fire-breathing tum som (green papaya salad) and other Lao comfort foods, such as larb pa (a fantastically delicious fish mousse style delicacy) which is one of my personal favourites!
The Lao kohk and sahk is unique and distinctively different to other mortar and pestles. The kohk is usually made out of clay (although it also exists in wood and metal), often large in order to satisfactorily feed a Lao family and/or army of hungry Lao eaters (although it also comes in varying sizes too), and distinctively tall and cone-shaped. The matching sahk is usually made out of wood. A long and slender, police baton shaped thing, and which could easily second as a frightening/threatening weapon when a wooden spoon or chopstick is not at hand. Just sayin’.
The iconic Lao cooking pair is also the name of a new and rising star Lao food product company called “Kohk & Sahk”, located in Los Angeles, United States. Founded by Mr. Tharathip (Thip) Soulisak in 2014, the promising company already has a strong and growing loyal customer/fan base. Understandably so because the products offered by Kohk & Sahk are based on Thip’s mum’s famous recipes, and include some Lao food favourites including the divinely delicious ‘seen savan’ (pictured).
“Seen savan” which translates to ‘heavenly beef’, or popularly known as ‘Lao beef jerky’ is aptly named because it tastes deliciously sweet (and savoury), as heaven is expected/imagined to be. If you love beef jerky, you will love ‘seen savan’, for they are moreish sheets of seasoned dried and lightly fried meat, enhanced with a light sprinkle of sesame seeds which when eaten, heighten the experience and flavour of the heavenly jerky to another dimension.
The inspiration behind Kohk & Sahk is Thip’s mum, Ms. Ketsada Thanasouk, who is a talented and passionate cook made famous for her cooking in her Lao community. Ms. Thanasouk has a life long connection with food and cooking. She was exposed to Lao food at a young age and she learnt the art of cooking authentic Lao food from her mum. The techniques and recipes were passed down orally from generation to generation in the family. It is these recipes that are used to make the popular and delicious products offered by Kohk & Sahk.
Although Kohk & Sahk have been blessed with a growing fan base, there are still many obstacles that they need overcome which require funding to resolve. These include having proper equipment (such as meat slicers and dehydrators) and staff, meeting USDA standards and regulations for food production, the development of an e-commerce website, advertising & marketing, and distribution.
As a result, in order to help get the company off its feet and to meet the above requirements, Thip and his company are currently running a campaign on Indiegogo to help raise funds. They are seeking contribution from all Lao food fans who are willing to help them achieve their vision of making Lao food products available across the United States in retail stores. Their goal is to raise $12,000 USD. There are rewards/perks for contributors. The campaign will close on Sunday, 8th March, 2015 (11:59pm PT).
If you love Lao food and would like to see it succeed/prosper and be enjoyed by a wider community, please help and show your support by contributing to this wonderful campaign. Furthermore, if you know of family members, friends or businesses who would also be interested in helping support Kohk & Sahk, please let them know about the campaign as well.
To learn more about Kohk & Sahk and to make your contribution to the campaign, simply go to Indiegogo. There, you can also view a video of Thip where he further explains his business/story in detail and shares/expresses his heartfelt/endearing respect and love for his mum. There’s also a great article about the campaign and an interview with Thip by Bryan Thao Worra (Little Laos on the Prairie) here. You can also follow Kohk & Sahk on Facebook and Instagram for updates.
I wish you all the best with this business venture Thip. I think that it’s a fantastic idea/thing. I think you and your team are doing an excellent job in promoting and sharing Lao food. I also think that everyone who knows about this project/campaign would be very proud of the work that you are doing. Sork dee der!