On our exploration of the Mekong River on the Mekong Explorer, my husband John and I enjoyed learning to make this delicious salad.
After a day of exploring and touring we returned to the Mekong explorer and our chefs, Ms. Soyout and Mr. Ning, showed us how to make Laap (spicy salad). Laap is a signature dish of Laos and served on special occasions such as wedding or Baci ceremonies which can be any special event in a person’s life. In Lao language, “laap” means luck or good fortune. It is a special dish because it contains meat, which is very expensive for Lao people. Laap is served cold making it perfect for celebrations that can last for several days. One such celebration occurs when a baby is born. Friends come to the house of the new parents, eat laap, and play a betting card game which can go on for several days. The money won from playing cards goes toward the baby’s future.
Editor’s note: this recipe calls for glutinous rice, also known as sweet or sticky rice. It has a glue-like or sticky texture and is part of almost any meal in Laos. The recipe also calls for Kaffir lime leaves, the leaves from a bumpy textured lime that’s native to Southeast Asia. The leaves, which add an aromatic, astringent flavor, are often used in Southeast Asian cuisine. Both sticky rice and kaffir limes leaves are available Asian grocery stores.
1 tsp butter
4 tbs glutinous rice (aka sticky or sweet rice)
1 small lemon grass, diced
2 fresh Kaffir leaves (bay leaves with a little lime zest may be used as a substitute)
10 shallots, thinly sliced
1 or 2 garlic cloves, diced
1 lb minced cooked chicken (pork or beef can be substituted)
1 tsp bouillon powder
1 tbs salt
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 tbs chili powder
1 tbs fish sauce
3 spring onions, cut in1-inch pieces
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
2 tbs cilantro, coarsely chopped
2 cups Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, long beans and/or any fresh vegetables
Heat butter in a wok. Add rice, lemon grass, and kaffir leaves. Stir fry until rice is lightly brown. Remove. With mortar and pestle grind to a course powder. Set aside.
Divide shallots in half. Fry one half with garlic in same pan used to fry the rice. Set aside.
To the minced chicken add bullion powder and salt. Add all the shallots. Add rice, lime juice, chili powder and fish sauce to taste. Toss well.
Just before serving add spring onion, mint leaves, and cilantro and toss lightly. Arrange on serving dish with fresh vegetables on the side.