Hello Everyone! For the later part of June, we’ll be saying goodbye to Indonesia for now and will be venturing off to Laos and since I am not very familiar with Lao dishes, I’ll only be covering two dishes that I’ve had similar experiences with.
The first Lao dish that I will be sharing tonight is known as laab (can also be spelt as larb). Laab is a type of Lao minced meat salad that can be made with either chicken, duck, beef, pork, fish, or mushrooms. It is seasoned with fish sauce, lime juice and padaek, a traditional Lao condiment made from pickled or fermented fish that has been cured. It is thicker and more seasoned than the fish sauce. Chillies, assorted vegetables, and fresh herbs such as mint, are also added to give the salad more flavour.
Though this is the first time I’m tackling a Lao dish, I am familiar with the process and taste of laab. My Thai aunt taught me how to make the Thai version of this dish using chicken, beef, and pork; this was way back when I was still in university and used to eat meat. Even though this is the ‘unofficial’ national dish of Lao, it is also eaten in a certain region in Northern Thailand where the majority of the population is of the Lao ethnicity. Variants of this dish can also be found in Myanmar (Burma) and in the Yunnan province of China.
I’ll be sharing a pescatarian-friendly version known as Laab Paa, or in English, Fish Herb Salad. It is refreshing because of the fresh mint and fresh ginger slices that cut through the saltiness, sourness, and spiciness of the dish as a whole. While the fish meat is soft and tender, you also get a different texture from the crispy-fried fish skin that is mixed into the salad. The dish is served at room temperature and usually with a serving of sticky rice and raw or fresh vegetables. You can even serve them as lettuce wraps. We served ours with rice noodles instead.
PREP TIME 20 MINS | COOKING TIME 5 MINS | SERVES 2
- 500g minced fish, I used red grouper fish
- Fish skin
- Salt, to taste
- 2-3 red chillies, minced
- 1 small red onion, halved and sliced thinly
- 1 thumb-sized ginger, julienned
- 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
- Juice of half a lemon
- Handful of blanched bean sprouts
- Mint leaves
- Spring onion
- Add about a tablespoon or 2 of cooking oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium-high. Add the minced fish and season with salt, to taste. Cook until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- While the fish is cooking, heat oil in a separate pan and fry the fish skin until browned and crispy. Once fried, break them into smaller sizes. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss the cooked fish together with all the remaining ingredients. Adjust the seasoning to your liking, i.e. add more fish sauce for saltiness, or more lemon juice for sourness.
- Plate up and top the laab paa with the crispy-fried fish skin. Serve and enjoy!
– Ally xx