North-eastern dressed meat

North-eastern dressed meat

Lap isan

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South East Asian Food

Lap is one of the favourite dishes of north Thailand as well as the north-east. Most foreigners and more than a few southern Thais find the classic country version a bit hard to face. Below is a description from The Teachers of Mad Dog Swamp, a novel by Khammaan Khonkai (translated into English by Gehan Wijeyewardene) about a young teacher, trained in Bangkok, who returns to teach in a village in the north-east, the region of his childhood:

The headmaster took the meat out of the bamboo strips which held it together. He picked out the meat still on the bone and the pieces of stomach and put it in a pot with various vegetables which had already been chopped. The fillet and meat off the leg, of which there wasn’t very much, he chopped very finely. He put some into a large dish and poured on it the phia – gastric fluids, in truth, digested food which the animal would have used to nourish its body. It was a green fluid from the small intestine. It was bitter to the taste. He mixed up the fluid with the minced meat. He put it in the dish, not yet putting anything else in except the entrails, which had also been finely chopped, and which he sprinkled over the meat. After that, he sprinkled various condiments into the dish. He added, in proper proportion, fermented fish (pla ra), finely chopped green chillies, rings of onions, shredded kaffir lime and lemon juice; what could not be omitted from the larp was the parched rice – rice parched until it was yellow – and the finely chopped onion.

When all the ingredients had been put in, he used a spoon to mix it all up together. Mint may be added with the other condiments, or it may be added later. The fresh blood is put in at the same time . . .

‘It’s very nice, but it’s a bit bitter,’ the young man observed, not knowing that the more bitter the larp the better.

‘Of course it’s bitter. It’s delicious. I especially asked for the di.’ Di was the green liquid which comes from a little sac adjacent to the liver . . . [i.e. the bile – R.B.]

The recipe which follows is a tame version by comparison, but it too is delicious.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon rice
6 dried chillies
500g good lean steak, pork or chicken, minced or finely chopped
1 1/2 limes, juiced
fish sauce, to taste
30 mint leaves
6 green and red chillies, sliced
3 stalks lemongrass, finely sliced
20 segments shallot, finely sliced
or 4 small spanish onions, finely chopped
2-3 fresh small red chillies, for garnish

Method

  1. Roast the rice in a dry pan on top of the stove until it is yellow in colour, then transfer it to a mortar and pound it roughly until it is the consistency of coarse sand. Roast the dried chillies in the same pan, and grind them.
  2. Boil about 600 ml water, throw in the minced beef, and stir it lightly just until the meat changes colour, then drain well, and put away the stock for some other purpose. Transfer the meat to a serving dish, mix the lime juice with about 11⁄2 tablespoons of fish sauce to start with and pour it over, mixing in. Add and mix in half the mint leaves, the 6 sliced chillies, lemongrass and shallots. Taste and season with more fish sauce if necessary, decorate the platter with the remaining mint leaves and the fresh chillies, and serve with sticky rice and a plate of salad greens, including some bitter lettuce and, if you have it, eryngo (long-leafed coriander) or Vietnamese mint.
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