Flavours from Afar

mailife - - Content - By PRIYA DARSNI Shar­ing recipes learned from lo­cals in far­away places, with a twist here and there!

FROM LUANG PRA­BANG, LAOS: PAW­PAW SALAD WITH CHICKEN LARB It was about five weeks into my back­pack­ing ad­ven­ture through Thai­land and across Viet­nam that I found my­self in the peace­ful lit­tle river­side town of Laung Pra­bang in Laos. The slow pace of this Bud­dhist town was a wel­come change to the hus­tle and bus­tle of Viet­nam — I stayed much longer than I had ini­tially in­tended too and started my days watch­ing the en­tire monk population of the town re­ceiv­ing their daily alms of rice from lo­cals at sun­rise. In Bud­dhism, monks can only eat if they are of­fered food with­out ask­ing for it — it is one of the purest prac­tices in the world and I soon learnt that it was one of the main rea­sons monk com­mu­ni­ties had faded away in coun­tries where they were much more preva­lent in older days. Ev­ery morn­ing, the monks would walk out on the streets, and ev­ery morn­ing, lo­cals would sit out­side their houses with pots of rice and condi­ments to scoop into their shawls. The tran­quil­ity of this prac­tice ex­tends it­self through-out the day, with even the night-mar­kets in the town be­ing quaint and or­derly — un­like the noisy and busy night-mar­kets of Thai­land and Viet­nam. Ev­ery night, I would walk around the mar­kets and I quickly found my­self re­turn­ing to one food stall in par­tic­u­lar where I be­came friends with the stall owner. The stall was run by a fam­ily of three, the food was fresh and the flavours were in­tense. Laos bor­rows much of its cui­sine from Thai­land with lo­cal in­gre­di­ent twists here and there and their twist on a com­mon chilli-packed Thai dish, ‘Larb’, be­came my daily or­der at the stall. I would usu­ally or­der the Larb with a side of green pa­paya salad — a de­li­cious combo which was packed with a punch of chilli, lemon and fish sauce dress­ing. One night, I or­dered the usual and found my green pa­paya salad had been switched for a firm or­ange paw­paw salad. With wide eyes I asked my new friends about the sud­den change in rou­tine and they laughed at me — “why do you stick to rules? if green pa­paya avail­able, use green pa­paya. If pa­paya turned or­ange, use or­ange pa­paya.” It seemed in­signif­i­cant at the time, but that em­bed­ded in me the prac­tice of us­ing what na­ture pro­vided in my cook­ing, in­stead of be­ing strict and un­wa­ver­ing about recipes and rules of con­sump­tion. The or­ange pa­paya salad was mouth-wa­ter­ing and I have made it on many oc­ca­sions since given how lucky we are to have such easy ac­cess to it at home in Fiji!

In­gre­di­ents (serves 4 peo­ple) Paw­paw salad 1 paw­paw (firm, not yet ripe) 2 chill­ies (chopped finely) 1 bunch of green beans (chopped) 3 small toma­toes (firm, chopped) 1 bunch of spring onion (chopped) 5 cloves of gar­lic (chopped finely)

Salad dress­ing 1 lemon (juiced) 5 ta­ble­spoons fish sauce 1 tsp brown sugar 1 tsp salt 3 tsp se­same oil

Chicken Larb 500g chicken breast 4 chill­ies (hot) 8 cloves gar­lic 2 inch stick of ginger 2 tsp se­same oil 1 lemon­grass root 1 tsp salt

To serve Let­tuce Salted peanuts Dried Shrimp (op­tional)

Pre­sen­ta­tion of paw­paw salad and chicken larb in let­tuce cups

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Fiji

© PressReader. All rights reserved.