Recently I have been craving south east Asian food. And one dish in particular has been coming to mind. I even dreamt of it one night.
Maybe its because at this time of year I am usually sitting in a forest somewhere in south-east Asia recording the local wild food plants.
Or maybe it’s simply because it’s been getting a bit fresh with the weather and I need some heat in my bones.
One thing I do know, is that when Robin hits any major city he goes on a hunt for this delicious dish.If you’ve ever been in northern Thailand, you may well have come across it if you have eaten Isan cuisine.
The dish I am referring to is Lahp, also spelt Larb or Laap, and is a spicy salad dish nowadays usually made with minced meat, herbs, lime juice and chilli, plus a few other nicknacks.It originates from Laos where it is a traditional, national dish.
Everything from monitor lizards to beef, and everything in-between, including the internal organs can go into a Lahp dish.If you’ve ever been into Laos forest villages, you’ll have discovered pretty quickly that if it moves, they eat it.
Lahp means ‘good fortune’. Well we can all do with more of that, and is a stable at festival feasts.
Traditionally it was served raw, in a similar way to steak tartare, but these days its usually cooked.
I’ve tried pretty much every variation you can think of, including ones that contain some pretty unmentionable animal organs.
Yet my favourite, and the one that I chase down as often as I can, uses minced pork.
Naturally I try and obtain organic meat where possible, but in some places in Asia you might just have to overlook such ‘privileges’ as organic.
I’m sure if you are a vegan or vegetarian by now you’re retching. So please don’t send me anymore ‘veggie hate mail’, than I get already.
Just start your own blog and post the virtues of your chosen diet, rather than go in for the attack.So much for love, peace and tolerance… eh.
But I detract. So where was I?
Ah yes, Lahp…
Oh-lawdy, I can feel my saliva glands activating already just talking about it.
Anyhoo, recently I decided to make a wild(ish) version. I really urge you to give it a go.
It’s quick, simple and so bloomin’ scrummy that hopefully it’ll tickle your tastebuds so much you’ll end up being as much a fan as I am.
You can pretty much throw any wild salad greens into this dish, so why not play around in the kitchen. Especially as the little green beings have started poking their heads above ground as I write this.
Under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1985 and amendments) it is an offence to deliberately or accidentally introduce this plant into the wild. Make certain when harvesting, to use suitable containers that do not allow any part of the plant to accidentally fall out when transporting back home. And dispose of any unused material safely (not your own compost bin, or green bin, instead use black bin). – Mark Duffell from Arvensis Ecology
- 2tbsp ground, roasted rice powder
- 1 cup of organic minced pork
- 1tbsp oil
- 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 2tbsp fish sauce
- 1tbsp dried chilli flakes
- 1 small handful of fresh mint leaves
- 1 small handful of fresh coriander leaves
- 1 small handful or thai basil leaves (optional)
- 1 shallot (finely sliced)
- 500g three cornered leek (Allium triquetrum) or other wild salad herbs
- 1 lime (juiced)
- Dry fry 2 tablespoons of uncooked sticky rice (available from Asian food shops) or just regular white rice, but try and get sticky rice if you can.
- Once the rice is golden brown, pound in a mortar and pestle until fine. You can use a coffee grinder or one of those super smoothie blenders like a nutri-ninja or nutri-bullet.
- Mince the pork using a food processor. You need to aerate the meat, so don’t buy pre-minced pork, buy chunks and mince it yourself.
- Heat a wok or large heavy based frying pan, and add the oil. Next add the garlic and shallot and stir fry until golden brown then add the meat.
- Stir the mince continuously until it is cooked. Then transfer to a mixing bowl.
- Now slice up the three cornered leek, along with the mint, coriander and thai basil leaves and add to the mixing bowl.
- Pour in the fish sauce and lime juice, mix until everything is worked in together.
- Finally add the ground toasted rice powder, and stir well.
- Serve with sticky rice or regular white rice.