Alix Clark is the editor of SBS food magazine Feast. In this regular series, she will choose a different dish from Feast magazine and recreate it in her own kitchen:
Given my druthers, I could quite easily live on salad. Not nasty, limp little side salads, but big butch ones with lots of ingredients, crunchy bits and plenty of protein to keep me feeling satisfied. I love them in all their forms and, whenever I visit the US, I love a bit of downmarket-diner dining for the Cobb salads, Chinese chicken and everything in between. So it was no contest when it came to cooking something for the blog – a main course salad. The only decision was which one to make.
As much as I love the orderliness of the Cobb salad (“Ingredients! Attenshun!”), I decided to go with the fresh flavours of the Laotian pork laap. It contains one of those mysterious ingredients that tastes horrible by itself, but wonderful when combined with other ingredients – fish sauce. Fish sauce is most commonly made from fermented anchovies, but other varieties can be used as well – I’m certainly no connoisseur, but I love the tang it adds to dressings and curries. The only unusual ingredient in this salad was the pickled krachai – a finger-like rhizome that’s less pungent than ginger or galangal. Rather than a smell, this odd-looking ingredient actually has a perfume – divine! I’ve included a photo of it here so you know what to look for.
Now back to the task at hand: chopping was the main thing and a good reminder that my knives need sharpening. They do the job, but I’m sure it could be better – Feast’s food editor, Ange, gave me the name of a knife sharpener who comes to your house on his motorbike and does it right there. Fabulous!
I toasted the glutinous rice and started pounding it in my mortar and pestle, but not much seemed to be happening except for small bits of rice flying everywhere, so I put it in my spice grinder for a quick whizz. I’m not exactly what the texture is supposed to be, but I got a range from coarse powder to a few full grains.
Pork mince cooked – easy. I saved a bowl by putting the dressing ingredients (lime juice, fish sauce and white pepper) straight in with the eschalots, chillies, krachai, etc. Seemed to work okay and doing so meant one less thing to wash up. I let the pork cool a little and then mixed it all together. Topped with a little ground rice and some fresh herbs and this was delicious. The recipe claims it serves four, but I’d say it serves one Alix (with possibly some leftovers for lunch). Yes, it was that good. Lucky for me, Mr Ed is not of the chilli persuasion, so I didn’t have to share this at all. Score!
Laotian port laap salad (serves 4)
- 30g (¼ cup) glutinous rice*
- 2 limes, juiced
- 2 tbs fish sauce
- 2 tbs peanut oil
- 800g minced pork
- 3 Asian red eschalots*, finely chopped
- 2 spring onions, chopped
- 4 red bird’s-eye chillies, seeded, finely chopped, plus extra, to serve
- 2 pieces (about 10cm long) pickled krachai*, finely chopped
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- Coriander and mint leaves, steamed rice, lettuce leaves and sliced cucumber, to serve
- Place rice in a wok over medium heat and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until toasted. Using a mortar and pestle, grind rice until roughly ground. Set aside and reserve wok.
- To make dressing, whisk lime juice, fish sauce and ½ tsp white pepper in a small bowl.
- Heat oil in reserved wok over high heat. Brown pork, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
- Toss pork with eschalots, spring onions, chillies, krachai, chilli powder and lime juice mixture until well combined. Place in a bowl, scatter with ground toasted rice, coriander and mint leaves, and extra chilli. Serve with rice, lettuce leaves and sliced cucumber.
* Glutinous rice, available from Asian food shops and selected supermarkets, is also known as sweet or sticky rice.
* Asian red eschalots are available from selected greengrocers and Asian food shops.
* Pickled krachai, available in jars from Asian food shops, is a finger-like rhizome that’s less pungent than ginger or galangal.
What’s your favourite main course salad? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
If you'd like to travel to Laos with Peregrine and taste this for yourself, why not take a look through all our trips.
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(Recipe and photo credit: Peter Georgkopoulos)