FISH LARB

Cuisine - - GINNY GRANT -

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

and crushed

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.

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