Padek is a very strong, pungent fermented fish sauce unique to Laos and parts of Thailand. It is indispensable in Lao cooking. My mother says you cannot make good Lao food without good padek and that the best padek is one you make yourself. For years I've rejected the notion that I had to make my own padek and stubbornly forged ahead with my own version of Lao food, full of short cuts using store bought padek and other sauces. Alas, my cooking is never as good as hers. My mother lives and makes padek in the south of France and when I go for a visit, I find myself looking forward to her Lao cooking as much as French wine and cheese.