We're almost bidding 'au revoir' to May - French May. The Gallic community here claims the month as its own, and it strikes me that the French love of food permeates all aspects of their culture. I attended a cheese and wine seminar organised by SOPEXA, who promote French food and drink. As the wine breathed next to me and the cheeses oozed, wine expert Daniele Raulet-Reynaud explained the intricacies of making cheese, and matching cheeses and wines. After two hours the torture of waiting to eat made it hard to concentrate; but what I did glean early on in the afternoon was that cheese and wine are both fermented products so taste best when consumed with another fermented product ... bread. Such is the French passion for their food that cheeses, like wines, are labelled Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC). If you are buying French cheese you should look for the AOC stamp, which guarantees not only the shape and origin of the cheese but practically which cow produced it. When we were eventually allowed to taste I discovered a match made in heaven: Sancerre Comte Lafonde 1996, available from Corks, 7 Staunton Street, and Remy Fine Wine Shops, at $211, teamed with a light goat's cheese, Valencay, both from the Loire Valley, at $24 for 100g from city'super, Times Square. Nor can the French be accused of keeping their cuisine to themselves. I recently visited Laos, surrounded by Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Burma, and part of French Indochina until 1941. The French influence is most evident at breakfast, where baskets of freshly baked bread, butter and jam are served with freshly squeezed, sweet orange juice and hot, strong coffee. The coffee, grown in Laos, is drunk by pouring hot water though a small 'windsock' containing roughly ground coffee beans, the dark liquid seeping through the muslin cloth. It is served with sweet condensed milk, which balances the acidity of the coffee. To recreate Laotian evenings of dining by sunset over the Mekong river, I invited some friends, also Laos veterans, round for supper. Lao cooks are hot on ginger, mint, coriander, lemongrass and coconut. I was inspired by the book Traditional Recipes Of Laos, published by Prospect Books (1995). The 30-year-old recipes are those of royal chef Phia Sing and are very pre-Delia Smith, going along the lines of, 'First catch your chicken/buffalo, gut it and roast it over an open fire.' I adapted one recipe to recreate my favourite Lao dish: chicken in ginger and coconut milk. For six people, whizz in a blender three sticks of lemongrass, chopped fresh ginger, one fresh chilli, four shallots and a good slosh of tinned coconut milk to make a paste. Fry the paste in several tablespoons of vegetable oil to release the flavours. Fry six chicken thighs with skin in the cooked paste, add more coconut milk to make a sauce and cook for about 45 minutes. Serve with rice. I could not face the thought of washing up, so for a truly laid-back experience I served the whole meal on paper plates, with plastic forks and plastic cups; at the end of the evening you can throw all the plates in a bin liner and ask the last guest to take the rubbish out with them when they leave - very non-PC, I admit, especially when McDonald's, in some parts of the world, is under pressure to use washable plates and cutlery to reduce landfill waste. Vietnam, another part of French Indochina, also enjoys freshly baked baguettes - sold from street vendors on bicycles - rough pate sandwiches and strong coffee. Laos' neighbour, Burma, was colonised by the more practical British, who failed to leave behind even a crumb of a scone recipe ... a fact confirmed by the Burmese owner of the Rangoon Restaurant, 265-268 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay. Tel: 2893-2281. While we were checking out the culinary history we enjoyed the specialities of pork with preserved mango, and squidgy vegetable spring rolls with fresh ginger sauce. India is another country where the British colonial masters left railways rather than recipes. Ate this week at my favourite Indian restaurant - India Today, 1/F, 26-30 Elgin Street, Central. Tel: 2801-5959. Items I can never resist are the 'revolutionary banana chat', a bizarre (but it works) spicy banana and potato curry ($25); curried chick peas at $25, as sold on the streets of New Delhi, and the aubergine curry ($52). India Today has just started a home delivery service to Mid-Levels residents, minimum order $140. Back to the French, for whom food is also a key element in movie plots. I went to a screening of The Same Old Song by director Alain Resnais, which won seven Cesars (the French Oscars). It's about people falling in and out of love and the characters burst into famous French songs to express their emotions. At a flat-warming party, those discussing their affairs also consider whether they prefer raisins in their taboulah (mais non, ils sont trop lourds). Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad which is easy to make - no wonder the character Odile includes it on her menu. To make: pour boiling water over bulghur wheat (available from city'super, Seibu in Pacific Place and Oliver's Delicatessen in Prince's Building, Central). Let it sit for five to 10 minutes, then fluff up with a fork and add lots of lemon juice, chopped parsley, chopped tomatoes and garlic - and raisins if you like. And should you wish to savour the tabbouleh scene for yourself, The Same Old Song will be on general release next month ... in Hong Kong June.