Isaan Grilled Eggplant Salad (Yam Makeua Isaan)

1 pound Asian eggplants (3 long or 5 short)
3 shallots, unpeeled
5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 to 2 cayenne chiles, or 2 Anaheim chiles, or 2 small banana or Hungarian wax chiles
2 small or 1 large scallion, trimmed and minced
1/2 cup coriander leaves, coarsely chopped, plus extra whole leaves for garnish
1/4 cup mint leaves, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons Dry-Roasted Sesame Seeds (page 308) Salt to taste
1 medium European cucumber, sliced (optional)

Heat a grill or broiler. Prick the eggplants all over with a fork. Grill or broil about 5 inches from the heat, with the oven door closed, until well softened and browned, 10 to 15 minutes. If grilling, turn the eggplants to expose all sides to the heat. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, grill on a fine-mesh rack or broil the shallots, garlic, and chiles, turning often if grilling, until well softened; don’t worry if there are some black spots. Remove from the heat and, when cool enough to handle, peel the garlic and shallots and coarsely chop together. Remove the chile stems and coarsely chop the chiles. Place the garlic, shallots, and chiles in a large mortar or in a blender or food processor and mash or process to a coarse paste.

Cut open the eggplants; scrape the flesh off the skin and discard the skin. Coarsely chop the flesh, then place it in a large bowl or in a mortar and mash with a spoon or pestle to a lumpy mass. Add the grilled flavorings and mash together. Alternatively, add the eggplant to the blender or processor and pulse briefly with the grilled flavorings; you don’t want a completely smooth puree.

Turn the mixture out into a bowl (if necessary). Stir in the scallions and chopped coriander and mint, then stir in the lime juice and fish sauce. Add the sesame seeds, reserving a few for garnish if you wish. Taste and add a little salt if needed.

Serve the salad in a shallow bowl, garnished with a sprinkling of herbs and, if desired, sesame seeds. If you like, place slices of cucumber around the edge that guests can use to dip through the eggplant.

Nyoom Kroit T’Long (Cambodian Pomelo Salad)

3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon palm sugar, or substitute brown sugar
1 pomelo or large grapefruit (approximately 1¼ pounds)
2 tablespoons Dry-Roasted Grated Coconut (page 308)
2 tablespoons Dry-Roasted Peanuts (page 308), coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1 cup mint leaves, chopped
2 to 3 bird chiles, finely chopped
Bibb lettuce leaves, washed and dried, for garnish

In a small bowl, mix together the fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar, stirring vigorously to dissolve the sugar completely. Set aside.

Peel the pomelo or grapefruit and separate into segments. Cut off the inside “seam” of each segment and then run your thumb between the membrane and the fruit to free it. Place the fruit in a bowl.

When ready to serve, pour off any juice that has accumulated at the bottom of the bowl; reserve for another purpose. Add the roasted coconut and peanuts, the shallots, mint, and chiles to the fruit and mix well. Pour the lime dressing over and mix well. Taste and adjust the balance of salt, sour, sweet (fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar) if you wish, then serve immediately on a bed of lettuce.

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Nam Prik Nun Tai Yai

4 to 5 banana chiles (about 1/4 pound)
1/4 pound shallots, cut in half, quartered if very large
6 to 8 cloves garlic, halved if large
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes
2 to 3 tablespoons coriander leaves, coarsely torn
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Heat a charcoal or gas grill. Place the chiles, shallots, garlic, and tomatoes on a fine-mesh rack on the grill and grill until well blackened in spots on one side, then turn with tongs and repeat on the other side, turning the tomatoes as necessary to expose all sides to the heat.

Alternatively, heat two heavy skillets over high heat (if you have only one skillet, the vegetables will have to be cooked in sequence; with two, you can get everything cooked at the same time). Place the chiles, shallots, and garlic cloves in one skillet and place the tomatoes in the other. Lower the heat to medium-high under both skillets. Press down gently on the chiles to expose them to the heat; then, as one side blackens, use tongs or a wooden spatula to turn them. Similarly, turn the shallots and garlic as they blacken on one side to cook the other side. Use tongs to turn the tomatoes, exposing all sides to the heat.

Remove the vegetables from the grill or skillets when they seem well scorched and softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Place on a cutting board to cool slightly. Slice off and discard the stem end of the chiles, slice the chiles lengthwise in half, and discard the seeds (unless you want a very hot salsa). Chop well, then transfer to a medium bowl. Finely chop the remaining vegetables and transfer, together with the juices from the tomatoes, to the bowl. Add the coriander, salt, and lime juice and stir to blend. The sauce will be chunky and a little bit soupy in texture. (The ingredients can be chopped together in a food processor, but the sauce is more traditional and more interesting with a hand-chopped texture.)
If you have time, let the sauce stand for 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to blend and mellow. Store in a covered nonreactive container in the refrigerator. The salsa will keep for 4 to 5 days. Bring back to room temperature before serving.

MAKES about 1½ cups sauce

NOTE: The Shan have a whole repertoire of grilled chile salsas, building on the ingredients in this one. For example, you could grill mushrooms or eggplant, then chop and add to this, adjusting the seasonings as necessary.

Jaew Bong (Laotian Chili Paste)

6 medium or 9 small shallots, unpeeled
1 1/2 cups garlic cloves (from 3 to 4 heads), unpeeled
6 (or up to 10) Thai dried red chiles
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped galangal
Several pinches of salt
2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce, or more to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons warm water
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander

Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place the shallots and garlic in the skillet and dry-roast until browned and blackened on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, place the skillet over medium heat, add the dried chiles, and dry-roast, turning and moving them frequently, until they start to give off an aroma; they should not blacken or burn—just heat gently until they are dried out and brittle. Alternatively, you can roast the shallots, garlic, and chiles over a charcoal or gas grill.

“Transfer the chiles to a mortar and pound them to a powder (discard any tough stems). Add the galangal and a pinch of salt and pound to a paste. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and set aside. Alternatively, place the chiles and galangal in a blender or food processor and chop them as fine as possible.

Slide the peels off the shallots and garlic and discard. Coarsely chop the shallots, place them in the mortar with a pinch of salt, and pound to a smooth paste. Add the paste to the mixture in the small bowl, then place the garlic cloves and a pinch of salt in the mortar and pound to a smooth paste. Add all the pounded ingredients to the mortar and pound together. Alternatively, add the shallots and garlic to the food processor with a pinch of salt and process. Add the fish sauce and 2 tablespoons of the warm water and pound or stir to blend well. The paste should be very moist and smooth; add a little more warm water if you wish. Taste for salt and add a little more salt or fish sauce if you wish. Stir in half the coriander.

Transfer the sauce to a small bowl. Sprinkle the remaining coriander over the top. Serve at room temperature. Store leftovers in a sealed contained in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Makes just over 1 cup thick sauce.

Nam Prik Pao

3/4 cup Thai dried red chiles
Generous 1/2 cup shallots, unpeeled
Scant 1/2 a cup garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce, or substitute scant 1/2 teaspoon salt for a vegetarian version

Place a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat, add the chiles, and dry-roast them, moving them around with a spatula as necessary to prevent burning, for 4 to 5 minutes; they’ll darken and become brittle. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Meantime, slice the unpeeled shallots lengthwise in half, or quarters if they’re very large. Place a second heavy skillet over medium heat, add the shallots and garlic cloves, and dry-roast until well browned on one side; then turn them over and dry-roast on the other side. When they’re well softened and roasted, 5 to 8 minutes, remove from the heat and set aside. Alternatively, you can also use a charcoal or gas grill to roast the chiles, shallots, and garlic; in village Thailand, grilling is usually done over a small wood fire.

Break off the chile stems and discard them, then break up the chiles (they’ll break easily) and place in a food processor or large mortar. Some recipes call for discarding the chile seeds, but it seems a pity to waste their heat and flavor, so we suggest you keep them. Peel the shallots and garlic, coarsely chop, and toss into the processor or mortar. Process or pound to a smooth paste (the chile seeds will still be whole). You may have to scrape down the sides of the bowl or mortar several times as you work. Processing is very quick; using a mortar “is more traditional and will take about 10 minutes or more, depending on the type of mortar and your energy.

Place a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, and when it is hot, add the paste. Stir gently with a wooden spatula as the paste heats in the oil and absorbs it. After 4 to 5 minutes, it will have darkened slightly and will give off a wonderful slightly sweet roasted chile aroma. Remove from the heat, stir in the fish sauce, and let cool to room temperature.
Transfer to a glass jar and store, well sealed, in the refrigerator.

MAKES just over ½ cup paste

NOTE: To serve the paste as a table sauce, you may wish to add more fish sauce or salt and a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice and a little sugar.

Sichuan Cucumber Salad

1 large or 2 medium European cucumbers
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
5 Thai dried red chiles, or 3 for milder heat
1/2 jalapeno, minced
7 Sichuan peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed torn coriander leaves

Peel the cucumber, leaving some thin strips of peel on if you wish, for a decorative effect. Cut lengthwise into quarters and scrape off and discard the seeds. Use the flat side of a cleaver or large knife to bash the cucumber pieces several times. Cut the pieces lengthwise into thinner strips, then cut crosswise into 2-inch lengths. Place in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and sugar. Pour over the cucumber, mix well, and set aside.

Place a wok or skillet over high heat. When it is hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the dried chiles, jalapeño, and peppercorns and stir-fry for 20 to 30 seconds. Pour this over the cucumbers. Sprinkle on the salt and mix well.
Mound the salad in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle on the coriander leaves and serve immediately.

Chinese Cucumber Salad

1 medium European cucumber (about 1/2 pound)
1 tablespoon black rice vinegar
2 teaspoons white rice or white wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon minced ginger

Cut strips of peel lengthwise off the cucumber, leaving alternating strips on. Cut the cucumber lengthwise into quarters and scrape off and discard the seeds. Gently smash flat each length with the side of a cleaver, then cut lengthwise in half and crosswise into approximately 1-inch lengths. Place in a shallow bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together the vinegars and sugar, then pour over the cucumber. Add the salt and mix well.

Mound the cucumber on a small plate, sprinkle on the ginger, and serve as an appetizer or as a salad to accompany a rice meal.

SERVES 3 to 4 as an appetizer or part of a rice meal.

Cambodian Pork with Green Beans

2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil or lard
4 to 6 cloves garlic, smashed and minced (about 1½ tablespoons)
1/2 pound boneless lean pork (such as fresh ham or trimmed pork shoulder), thinly sliced across the grain
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce, or to taste
2 cups green beans or yard-long beans cut into 1½-inch lengths
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons coriander leaves (optional)

In a large wok or wide heavy pan, heat the oil or lard over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the garlic and cook until golden, about 20 seconds.

Add the pork, sugar, and salt, and stir-fry, using your spatula to separate the slices of pork, and expose all the surfaces to the hot wok, until all the meat has changed color.

Splash in the fish sauce, add the beans, and cook for 2 minutes, then add the water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 more minutes (time will vary depending on the tenderness of the beans); the beans should be cooked but still have some crunch and life and be very green. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.

Sprinkle on the coriander leaves, if you wish, and serve on a flat plate or in a shallow bowl.

Nuoc Leo- Vietnamese Peanut Sauce with Pork

1/4 cup Dry-Roasted Peanuts (page 308)
Scant 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp, dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water, or substitute scant 2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons peanut oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons ground pork
3 tablespoons fermented soybean paste (tuong in Vietnamese; dao jiao in Thai)
About 1 cup water
1½ teaspoons sugar
1 to 2 bird chiles, minced
Generous squeeze of fresh lime juice (optional)

Place the peanuts in a food processor or large mortar and process or pound to a coarse powder; set aside. If using tamarind, press it through a sieve; reserve the liquid and discard the solids.

Heat the oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry until it is starting to change color, about 15 seconds. Toss in the pork and use your spatula to break it up into small pieces. Once it all has changed color, add the soybean paste and the tamarind or tomato paste and stir to blend. Stir in 1/2 cup of the water, then stir in most of the ground peanuts, reserving about 1 tablespoon for garnish. Stir in the sugar and chiles. Add up to 1/2 cup more water, until you have the desired texture: a thick liquid, pourable but not watery.

Serve in small individual condiment bowls or in one medium bowl with a spoon so guests can drizzle sauce onto their food or onto their plates. Serve warm or at room temperature, squeezing on the optional lime juice and sprinkling on the reserved ground peanuts just before serving.

The sauce will keep well-sealed in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 1 month. Reheat it in a small pan and simmer briefly before placing in a serving bowl.

MAKES about 2 cups sauce

Lon Dao Jiao – Coconut and Tamarind Sauce with Pork

1½ cups canned or fresh coconut milk (see page 315)
3 medium shallots, 2 minced and 1 thinly sliced
1/3 cup fermented soybean paste (dao jiao)
1 heaping tablespoon tamarind pulp, dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
2 Thai dried red chiles
¼ to 1/2 cup ground pork
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
Salt (optional)

OPTIONAL ACCOMPANIMENTS
1/2 small Savoy cabbage, cut into wedges
1 small European cucumber, sliced
1 to 2 green mangoes, peeled and sliced

Heat the coconut milk to a boil in a small pot, then simmer until the oil separates, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the minced shallots in a mortar and pound to a paste. Add the soybean paste and pound until smooth. Pass the tamarind through a strainer to produce smooth tamarind liquid; discard the solids and set the liquid aside.

Add the shallot paste to the coconut milk, together with the chiles and pork. Cook until the pork has completely changed color, stirring to break up any lumps. Add the sliced shallot, then stir in the tamarind water and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Taste and add salt or more sugar if you wish. The flavors should be strong and punchy. Bring to a boil briefly, then stir and transfer to a bowl. Serve with a serving spoon; the sauce will be quite liquid.

MAKES about 2 cups sauce.

Serve this with a platter of fresh vegetables, as well as with rice if you wish. Use the vegetables to scoop up the sauce.

Laab Gai – Minced Chicken with Fresh Herbs

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs, rinsed, or substitute lean ground chicken
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots, slices separated into rings
1 or 2 Thai dried red chiles, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup packed Vietnamese coriander (rau ram) leaves, or substitute mint leaves or regular coriander leaves, coarsely torn, plus small sprigs for garnish
3 tablespoons Aromatic Roasted Rice Powder

“ACCOMPANIMENTS
Steamed Vegetable Plate (page 69) or wedges of raw Savoy cabbage
A handful of tender young green beans or yard-long beans
3 or 4 scallions, trimmed

If using chicken parts, with a cleaver, slice the chicken, then mince it until it resembles the consistency of ground beef.

In a small saucepan, bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Toss in the chicken and cook until all the meat has changed color, about 2 minutes. Drain the chicken, and save the stock for another purpose if desired.

In a medium bowl, mix the chicken with the shallots, chiles, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, black pepper, herbs, and roasted rice powder. Mound on a plate and garnish with fresh herb sprigs. Put out a platter of the accompaniments and serve with plenty of sticky rice.
SERVES 4 as part of a rice meal,

Luang Prabang Pork Salad

For the salad

3 to 4 large or extra-large eggs, preferably free-range
2 medium heads leaf or Bibb lettuce, washed and dried
4 scallions, trimmed, smashed flat with the side of a cleaver, cut lengthwise in half or into quarters, and then cut crosswise into 2-inch lengths
1 cup cilantro sprigs
1 cup loosely packed, coarsely chopped or torn Chinese celery leaves, or substitute flat-leaf parsley sprigs

For the lime juice dressing and the cooked dressing

1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 bird or serrano chiles (optional), minced
3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
9 to 10 cloves garlic, minced (divided)
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil or minced pork fat
1/2 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cups hot water
1/2 cup rice or cider vinegar
2 to 3 tablespoons dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Put the eggs in a saucepan with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook at a gentle rolling boil for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

Tear the salad greens into large coarse pieces. Place all the greens, including the scallions and herbs, in a large bowl and set aside.

Peel the hard-cooked eggs and cut crosswise in half. Transfer the yolks to a small bowl and mash; set aside. Slice the whites crosswise and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ginger, chiles, fish sauce, lime juice, and 1 to 2 cloves’ worth of minced garlic; set aside.

When you are ready to proceed, put the remaining dressing ingredients near your stovetop. Heat a wok or heavy skillet over high heat. Add the oil or fat and heat for 20 seconds, then add the remaining 8 cloves’ worth of minced garlic. Stir-fry briefly, until the garlic starts to change color, about 20 seconds, then toss in the pork. Use your spatula to break up the pork into small pieces as you stir-fry. Once all the pork has changed color completely, after 1 to 2 minutes, add the salt and sugar, then add the hot water and bring to a boil. Add the vinegar, add the reserved mashed egg yolks, and stir to blend.

Pour the hot liquid and pork over the prepared greens and toss gently. Pour the lime juice dressing and toss. Transfer the salad to a large flat platter (or to individual dinner plates) and mound it attractively. Sprinkle on the chopped roasted peanuts, arrange slices of egg white attractively on top, and serve immediately.

Aromatic Minced Pork, Shan Style (Laab)

Paste:
6-8 cloves of garlic, skins on
3 TBS minced lemongrass
1 TBS minced galangal
6 dried Thai red chiles
1 tsp salt
1 TBS toasted sesame seeds

Put the garlic cloves in a dry pan over high heat and roast until the skins are mostly blackened.

When cool remove skins and chop.

Finely chop garlic with salt then add remaining ingredients and process one by one until a paste is formed.

Laab

2 TBS peanut or vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots
3/4 lb ground pork
1/2 cup chopped scallion greens
1/2 cup rough chopped coriander
1/4 cup chopped mint

Heat a large wok over high heat and add the oil. Add the shallots, lower the heat to medium and cook till browned about 4 minutes. Add the paste and break up with a spoon. Add the pork and cook till browned on all sides then an additional 2 minutes. Add the scallion greens, coriander and half the chopped mint. Remove from heat and mound on plates. Sprinkle with remaining mint. Serve with rice and vegetables.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

2 pounds of uncooked chicken legs or breasts; or 2 cups of cooked chicken
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
2 or 3 bird or serrano chilies, minced
2 cloves garlic, or more to taste, chopped
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
2 cups shredded Napa or Savoy cabbage
2/3 cup Vietnamese coriander, coarsely torn, or sweet basil or 1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves, plus extra for garnish
Freshly ground pepper

Poach the chicken in water for about 30 minutes until the juices run clear when pierced with a knife. Remove chicken from cooking liquid and cool, reserve broth for another use. Chicken can be cooked in advance and placed in refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Return to room temperature for the salad.

Discard chicken skin and shred the chicken to make about 2 cups.

In a small bowl, combine, fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, chilies, sugar, and garlic. Separate shallots into rings and add to the dressing. Let stand for 30 minutes if possible.

Blanch bean sprouts for about 30 seconds in boiling water, then refresh with cold water and drain well. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, bean sprouts, cabbage, and herbs. Pour dressing over and toss gently to blend,

Mound salad on plates, with ground pepper and herb leaves as garnish. Salad may also be served on hot rice or noodles.