No chilli phobias al-Lao-ed: Dtom jeaw pla, ping gai and larb het

We’re back! It’s been a few weeks since we cooked anything exotic, our excuse for last week being that we spent four glorious days in France, drinking champagne and eating fantastic food. In fact, this time last week we were basking in the sunshine, eating a freshly-procured picnic of bread, farmhouse pate, goat cheese, heirloom tomato and red wine drunk out of plastic glasses, with a raspberry tart and rhubarb flan waiting for us to be ready for dessert. Today, we’re inside looking out at the grey sky and wet pavements. C’est la vie.

But back to the mission and country at hand: a dish from Laos. We’ve recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with Wendy, a school friend of Miranda’s who has been brave/crazy enough to join the throngs of people battling rush hour on the London Underground for the past two years. Last night, she joined us for a farewell dinner before returning to the Land Down Under, and that meant we could inflict more Lao-style chillies on her than she was probably expecting!

When researching Lao food, we discovered that the national dish is larb, a salad of minced meat (or vegetarian alternative), flavoured with a variety of herbs and spices and, crucially, toasted ground rice. We also learnt that the Lao eat more sticky rice than any other people in the world, and will often refer to themselves as ‘luk khao niaow’ which, roughly translated, means ‘children or descendants of sticky rice’. Larb and sticky rice needed to feature, then, but salad and rice doesn’t exactly scream ‘dinner party menu’. A bit more reading around eventually led us to create the following menu:
– Dtom jeaw pla (fish soup)
– Ping gai (marinated grilled chicken)
– Larb het (spicy mushroom salad)
– Sticky rice
– For dessert, Gordon Ramsay’s pineapple and mango crumble, which isn’t Lao, but seemed to fit Continue reading