I cannot emphasize it enough; I love love love the cuisine of Laos. It has taken me long to finally get a cultural and culinary taste of this tiny, landlocked land in Southeast Asia. “Never” is way too long and can be an ugly word. Happily now, I crossed out another “never been/done/had” from my Bucket List.
Although the cuisine of majority of Laos’s neighboring countries such as China, Vietnam and Thailand are well known worldwide; Laotian food remains unknown to most. I like the simple treatment of ingredients, the extensive use of vegetables and delicate, yet not complicated sauces. The food is flavorful but it does not attack your palette the way Chinese or Thai foods do. The spices are there; but not so much is used to overpower natural flavors of the ingredients. I especially like their colorful salads and stuffed bamboo and lemongrass dishes.
I adored the food so much that while I was in Laos, I took a short cooking class. Here is the recipe for one of the dishes I learned to cook. It is a simple, quick and delicious recipe.
Thai and Lao cuisine share many ingredients and techniques. That is why this recipe might look more Thai oriented.
Laotian Red Curry with Pork
Recipe is courtesy of La Residence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang, Laos.
If you have the ingredients washed/chopped, the total cooking time would be around 15 minutes.
Serve over cooked rice of your choice. Use Sticky Rice if you can find it. It is delicious and is the only rice we ate in Laos. Sticky Rice is of a short grain variety and is grown throughout Southeast Asia. Because of its high amylopectin (one of the two ingredients in starch), the rice grains stick together once cooked. In spite of being sticky, the rice grains keep their shape and have a nice texture and a mild aroma. In Laos, Sticky Rice is kept and served in pretty lidded straw baskets.
What You Need:
- 2 tblsp Vegetable or any neutral flavored oil
They use a lot of Palm Oil in Laos because it is locally grown and inexpensive.
- 1/2 lb Pork Loin- cut into 1/4” thick slices
- 4 oz Red Curry Paste
- 10 fl oz Coconut Milk
- 1 tblsp Fish Sauce
- 1 tsp Sugar
- a few Thai Basil Leaves- substitute
- 2 or 3 Lime Leaves
Substitute the last two ingredients with Regular Basil and Lime Peels, if you absolutely cannot find them. For Lime Peels, try to shave/peel wide strips using a vegetable peeler; instead of grating the lime/s. The unique flavors of Thai Basil and Lime Leaves work wonderfully with Coconut Milk and Curry.
Use a wok if you have it. Otherwise, a good quality, heavy bottom stainless steel pan that is large enough to stir around the ingredients in would do.
What You Do:
- Heat the wok on medium heat.
- Carefully, add Oil, Red Curry Paste and Lime Leaves (or Lime Peels). Sautee for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Once the oil is hot and red in color, add the Pork Slices and cook, stirring slowly, until the mixture is on the dry side and Pork Slices are well coated.
- Add Coconut Milk and lower the heat. Let the liquid reduce by about half, add Fish Sauce, Sugar, Basil Leaves (or basil).
You are done!
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