There’s a time when I hanker for a kick of heat in the food and sharp, clean and fresh flavours from plenty of Asian herbs.
SERVES 4 / PREPARATION 10 MINUTES / COOKING 10 MINUTES
A trip many years ago to Khon Kaen in north-eastern Thailand introduced me to the delights of Isaan cuisine and in particular larb (or larp laap, larp or laab as it is sometimes spelled), the chopped salad of minced duck, beef, pork, chicken or freshwater fish. The region’s cooking uses dried hot chilli with a wilful abandon; I’ve cut down the quantities somewhat but feel free to increase if you like. It’s not authentic, but I often add fresh chilli for a burst of colour too. Last summer
I bought a sawtooth coriander plant at the Avondale market that is still going strong; its robust coriander flavour is perfect to use here, but otherwise use ordinary coriander along with other herbs. Don’t omit the toasted and ground rice. Not only does it add a nutty and textural component but it also helps to thicken the juices.
2 tablespoons rice (I used glutinous rice, but any will do) 500g fish
1 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 clove garlic, minced
4-6 dried bird’s eye chillies, dry toasted
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 red chilli, finely chopped a good handful of herbs such as Vietnamese mint,
coriander, Thai holy basil etc, roughly torn
In a small frying pan toast the rice until golden around 5 minutes. Cool and pound in a mortar and pestle to a fine crumb. Set aside.
Chop the fish very finely. Heat a wok or pan over a medium heat, add the oil then add the fish along with the salt, garlic and dried chilli, and stir for 3-4 minutes until just cooked adding a splash of water to the pan if necessary. Add the shallots and lemongrass and mix well. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, fresh chilli and herbs. Check and adjust the seasoning to taste. Scatter with the toasted rice. Serve with rice (I used sticky rice but you could just use steamed rice) and vegetables such as raw cabbage or lettuce, cucumber and lightly blanched green beans or sugar snap peas.