Inspired by our recent rip to Laos, and by a book Ant Egg Soup: the adventures of a food tourist in Laos by by Natacha do Pont de Bie, I have been trying my hand at Lao cuisine.
The real difficulty is in getting the paa-dek or Laos variety of fish sauce. I made mine by boiling 400 ml of fish stock and by adding 10 anchovy fillets, but the result was not pungent enough so in future I will use anchovy sauce or fish sauce. So it was all a little experimental, but why not share with my friends, I thought?
Bon Paa is normally eaten with plain rice rather than sticky rice and a large pile of steamed vegetables – here I used asparagus and long bean but you can use carrots, courgettes, or anything that steams nicely. Try steaming with a little ginger for extra health benefits.
1 large tbs paa-dek, or 2 tbs fish or anchovy sauce
1 large shallot or half a red onion
2 cloves garlic
2-3 small chillies
1 medium aubergine – oriental kind – or three of the small golf-ball sized ones
2 fish fillets, I used red snapper but cod is good in the UK
Boil half a litre of water and add the paa-dek. Boil for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile take the shallot, garlic and chillies and spear onto a skewer and roast over an open gas flame, or under the grill until the skin is burned black. Then remove the onion and garlic skins and the stalks from the chillies. Place them in a pestle and mortar and pound roughly.
Add the aubergines to the water and add the fish fillet skin side up to retain moisture, plus a little more fish sauce to taste, and poach gently until flaky and cooked. Remove the fish from the water and put on plate. Scoop out the aubergine with a slotted spoon and add the mortar and pound a few times.
Then add the fish (skinned now) and pound until you have a rough paste. If your bowl is not big enough, put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and pound with the pestle.
Check seasoning – add salt, pepper and more fish sauce. Serve with the steamed vegetables and rice for a very healthy and typical Lao meal!
I set my skewer alight! so do be careful…