Mincing the night away…

Laab1
The view in the morning. The view in the evening.

Sawadee and welcome.

Mince has to be one of the most versatile dinner options going around (except for our vegetarian friends of course. They could use any number of substitutes though – eggplant, brown rice, chick peas, TVP, lentils or chopped vegetables perhaps).
And sometimes I do too.

You’ve probably got a few favourites up your sleeve as well.
This is one of ours.

Larb is a traditional Laos dish but you’ll find  it on most Thai restaurant menus as an entrée or a  salad.

It’s a lively dish made from  minced meat (eg chicken, pork, beef, duck) tangy citrus, salty fish sauce, spicy chilli, fragrant herbs and toasted, ground rice.
Like so much Sth East Asian cuisine, it’s about balancing all those flavours.

In Laos larb is often served w/ a green  papaya salad and sticky rice.

Kid don’t do no paw-paw (especially not green) so we’re not going there.
I would eat green papaya salad all day, although I would end up with an upset tummy.
Instead we have some awesomely plump and ripe Bowen mangoes (seeing as how it’s mango season and that).
We’ve also traded sticky rice for a neat little rice noodle salad w/ cashews.

Laab2Green tea scented Chicken Larb (Larb Gai) w/ Mango
Ingredients
– for about 4
500g  Chicken Mince
1 cup chicken stock
2 anise stars
1 teaspoon leaf green tea
2 sticks of celery – diced
2 long red chilli – sliced and de-seeded
3 spring onions – sliced fine
1/2 bunch Vietnamese mint – some for now and some for the mango
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 lime
1/3 cup rice – jasmine preferably
HOW
Pre – heat an oven to 160*c. Place the rice on a baking tray and bake until golden brown, about 20 mins. Smash to bits with a little salt in a mortar and pestle until its like coarse sand, put aside.
Laab5Bring the stock to a simmer in a deep fry pan. Add the celery and chilli. Place the star anise and tea in a tea infuser or strainer in the stock for about 5 mins. Remove the tea and anise. Add the mince and stir thoroughly, breaking down the mince so it’s not too lumpy.
Laab6Add the fish sauce and continue stirring until the mince is cooked through. Turn off the heat. Add the lime juice, spring onions and finish with toasted, ground rice.

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What Kid Did

Kid made our salad. Recently she’s graduated from picking and washing herbs or rolling dough to actually cooking vegetables. It’s hard to watch her using a pot of hot water and not be nervous though. (There will still be herbs to pick and dough to roll).

Just relax dad, loosen them apron strings a little.

Supervision is key. So is relaxing the hell out and letting her get on with it.

Laab3

Rice Noodle Salad w/ Roasted Cashews
Ingredients
1/4 of a packet dried rice noodles or vermicelli
500g green beans
1 small head of broccoli
100g toasted cashews
1 lime
4-5 drops of sesame oil.
HOW
Put a large pot of water on to boil with a little salt. Boil the kettle. Cover the rice noodles with the kettle water for about 2-3 minutes until soft. Strain and rinse well under some cold water. Drain them well and toss with the sesame oil. Blanch the beans and broccoli in the pot and then refresh in some ice – cold water. It’s important that the vegetables go from very hot to very cold as quickly as possible. This will lock in colour and flavour. Smash the cashews however you like and then mix everything together with the juice of the lime.
Laab4Serve under a generous helping of the hot larb. The contrast of hot and cold is another familiar aspect of this style of food. Chop up some mango and mix with some Viet mint to go with.

Laab7I have to confess here, we didn’t end up eating this straight away. This became my dinner the next couple of nights instead and tasted just as good for it. The vegetables stayed crisp and green thanks to the very hot/ very cold treatment.

Instead G.F rang to invite us out to dinner with her. So we did. Because we like her. We had  lovely Italian and Kid ate a chicken schnitzel bigger than her head.

I have plans (well, an idea anyway) to take Kid somewhere in Sth East Asia this year for her first OS trip. Bali or Thailand seem like good introductory places. Not just for the food but to show her how other people live and where their food comes from. That’s what we’re supposed to be about after all.

C&K on holiday. Watch this space 🙂

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