Laos is in South East Asia bordered by Northeast Thailand, Viet Nam, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia & China. It is another place on my list of must visit countries that keeps growing by the day. I found the link to this recipe on Tes at Home. Tes grew up in Northeast Thailand but now lives in India. This recipe is my vegetarian version of her childhood memories of a dish called Or Lam that she found on Eating Asia. I took ingredients and techniques from both recipes and cooked the rice in the same pot but it would normally be served with sticky rice on the side. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any fresh dill for this dish so I replaced it with fresh coriander. Feel free to substitute the dill back in or a mixture of both would be nice.
You start by making a curry paste with shallots, garlic, chilli, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander stalks and salt. This is fried off then veg stock is added before adding the vegetables. The idea is to cook the aubergine until it is very soft and thickens the stew. I used my metal tea infuser to flavour the dish with Sichuan peppercorns and black peppercorns. This way you get some of the aromatic heat from the peppercorns but not the full on numb lips experience. I used 15 of each in the tea infuser. You could also use a piece of muslin tied at the top with string). Or crush a smaller amount of each to add to the dish, say five of each.
Laos Style Aubergine, Mushroom & Lemongrass Curry Rice Bowl
serves 2, vegan, gluten-free
- 1 large aubergine, quartered lengthways then cut into 2 cm chunks
- 100 gr mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
- 100 gr green beans, trimmed & halved
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped( I used 2 garlic & 1 spring garlic)
- 6 shallots (I used 1/2 spring onions), roughly chopped
- 1 stalk lemongrass, roughly sliced
- 3 lime leaves, sliced
- 1 red or green chilli, roughly chopped
- a handful of coriander stalks
- 1 tsp salt (or 1 tbsp fish sauce)
- about 500 ml veg stock
- 15 Sichuan peppercorns
- 15 black peppercorns
- 150 gr wholegrain rice
- 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach
- a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus leaves for garnish
Put the shallots, garlic, chilli, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander stalks and salt (or fish sauce) into a bowl or food processor and blend to a smoothish paste. Heat about 1 tbsp oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add in the paste and stir fry for a minute. Add in the veg stock and put both sets of peppercorns in the tea infuser(or muslin bag) and hang it over the side of the pan so it is submerged in the liquid (or throw in the muslin bag). Bring to the boil.
Add in the mushrooms, aubergine and rice, season with salt and boil for another minute. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about another 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the aubergine is soft and melting into the stock. If you like you can take out a ladle full of the stew and blend until smooth before adding back into the pot.
Add in the green beans and spinach, stir, cover and cook for another 3 – 5 minutes until the beans are cooked. Stir in the chopped coriander and taste for seasoning.
Ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with extra coriander leaves.
Imagine yourself on the banks of the Mekong river watching the boats go by or strolling through a colourful food market selling exotic, unknown foods, listening to the strange language and trying to recognise the unfamiliar smells. I will get there.. one day….