World Cooking – Laos

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Laos
Progress: 27/193

Okay so, full disclosure, I was really hoping to find a good recipe for a recipe from Brunei in order to tick off an extremely small nation. However, that was not meant to be and so I fell back onto one of the recipes that I have in my back pocket in case this happened. So here we are taking a look at some Laotian cuisine and trying to avoid making any King of the Hill references.

Laos sits ride at the heart of the Indochina with China to the north and pretty much every non-island South-East Asian touching the rest of the border. As with a lot of cuisines, things that are considered Laotian can also be found being served in neighbouring nations – most notably in Thailand where many Lao dishes have been adopted, given a Thai twist and are known by a lot of us in the West as being Thai food rather than Laotian.

I mention this bleeding of Lao cuisine into Thai as this is how I first experienced Laotian food – including the dish that I have made today. When doing this blog I really make the effort to find recipes that try to be close to what’s made in that specific countries (keeping in mind that some ingredients aren’t exactly easy to come by). It helps trying to make things that are considered official (or unofficial) national dishes, which leads me to what I made for lunch today.

Main: Pork Larb

I think that this is the first (and possibly only) time that I was able to do a taste test of a dish via a local takeaway. To be honest it was the weird monosyllabic name that first got my interest as, next to some of the longer more exotic dish names on the menu, this looked remarkably humble and (as it turned out) rather tasty – even if the version I taste was probably the Thai version.

However, this is very much not the Thai version and, thanks to The Woks of Life, I got an authentic feeling version. Also quick. Do you know how rare it is for a dish on this trip around the world to be finished in under half an hour? It’s a miracle and a really nice one at that. I also really appreciate about this dish is how you can play with the amounts depending on taste – after some of the restrictive dishes I’ve been making in the previous few posts it’s nice to have some freedom.

For all intents and purposes, larb is classified as being a meat salad and is usually served alongside lettuce leaves and rice (sadly I couldn’t find sticky rice, but I had jasmine rice and that was still really good). The meat, pork in this instance, is flavoured using chilli, lime juice, shallot, fish sauce, herbs and ground toasted rice. I think it is this last ingredient, in combination with the fish sauce and lime, that helps to make this quite a different dish. The aroma released from the toasted rice as I ground it in my pestle and mortar was deliciously savoury and nutty… and made me all the more hungry.

Right, so since I did Italy and Lithuania so close together, it’s back to Africa for the next entry in my cooking around the world. Whilst I doubt that what I find will be anywhere near as decadent as the lobster in vanilla sauce that I made for Comoros, I hope that it will still be tasty.

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