Burmese Butter and Lentil Rice

1 1/2 cups raw split-pea lentils
2 1/2 cups raw rice
2 large onions
4 T ghee
4 cardamom pods
2 cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp turmeric or 1/16 tsp saffron
1 cup shelled green peas
1 T salt

Wash and soak lentils ahead of time to shorten cooking time (if using corn, boil cobs, then cut off kernels). Boil lentils until halfway done. Wash and drain rice, slice onions.

Heat ghee, add spices and let aroma rise. Add half the sliced onion. When it begins to brown, add turmeric, remaining onion, green peas, lentils and salt. Stir well. If saffron is used, dissolve in 2 T hot water and add to the 4 1/2 cups of water for the rice.

Add rice, mix well, then add 4 1/2 cups water. Cover and cook over high heat. Stir once or twice before it comes to a boil. As water is absorbed, lower heat, shake pot with lid on. Continue to cook very slowly until rice is dry and fluffy, shaking pot once or twice more.

Jaew Mak Len (Lao Grilled Tomato Salsa)

Jaew Mak Len

For grilling:
10 medium tomatoes
1 head of garlic
1 large shallot
chiles (your preference)

For mixing:
1 large bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 large handful of green onions, chopped
a glug of fish sauce
squeezed lime juice to taste
pinch of salt

First grill the vegetables, skins on, until blackened. (Laos traditionally cook over an open flame, not gas.) Peel off garlic and shallot skins, as well as the most blackened parts of tomato and chile skin.

Pound the vegetables in a mortar with a pinch of salt.

Add chopped cilantro, green onion and fish sauce; pound a bit more. Taste. Add more of anything needed. If it is too sour or bitter, add a pinch of sugar. Serve with sticky rice.

Hmong Chile-Peanut Dipping Sauce

2 T fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp MSG, optional
1-2 fresh red chile peppers, minced
1/4 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
4 green onions, white and green parts
1 small tomato, chopped (or 6 cherry tomatoes or 15 grape tomatoes)
2 T chopped raw peanuts
1 T peanut butter

In a small bowl, mix fish sauce, lime juice, salt, sugar and MSG if you are using it. Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.

Next, add the chile peppers, cilantro, green onions, tomatoes and peanuts. add the peanut butter and stir until the sauce is of uniform consistency.

Laotian Stir Fried Fish with Chili and Holy Basil

A healthy portion of white fish, thinly sliced in small pieces (anything that holds together well, without an overpowering fishy flavor)
Lots of garlic
Hot red chile, sliced thinly
Pinch of palm sugar
Pinch of bouillon or 1/4 cup soup stock
Drizzle of dark soy sauce
Heap of fresh holy basil

Heat the garlic and chile in a hot wok with oil. Stir. Toss in the fish and stir-fry quickly on high heat. Add a little water, sugar and soup or bouillon. Stir, then add basil and soy sauce, primarily for color. That’s it! It’s quick.

The dish should be hot, but not be overly sweet. It is similar to the Thai stir-fry with chile and basil, “but different cooking. In Thai, more oil, more sugar. In Lao, little oil, little sugar, more chile.”

Fiji Curry

8 cloves garlic
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon cumin seed
2 teaspoons fenugreek
2 teaspoons coriander seed
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
3 tablespoons curry powder (I used a Malaysian chicken curry powder)
hot red chilies to taste
chopped cilantro leaves
pinch of sugar
1/2 cup plain yogurt
whatever meat or veggies you like, chopped (okra, purple eggplant, onion, yellow bell pepper and tomatoes)

Using a mortar and pestle (or food processor), mash garlic and salt. Add a bit of water to form a paste. Add cumin, fenugreek, coriander, mustard, curry and chilies. Pound until thoroughly mashed, adding water if necessary to form a paste.

Next, toss a sliced onion into a bit of olive oil and a pinch of the curry paste and cook until brown. Add the remaining paste, the cilantro leaves and enough water to cover the mixture; bring to a boil. Toss in your veggies and cook until tender, adding more water if necessary. Add a pinch of sugar to balance the flavors. Just before removing from heat, stir in the yogurt. Top with additional cilantro leaves.

Herbed Anasazi Beans

2 cups dried Anasazi beans
olive oil
1 bunch fresh oregano, stems removed, leaves chopped
6 cloves minced garlic
sea salt
fresh lemon juice
white balsamic vinegar
chile powder to taste

Rinse beans, cover with water and soak over night. Add more water, bring to boil and simmer until beans are tender. (Time will vary depending on how long the beans soaked, how many beans you have and your elevation. But I found these beans to cook very quickly, in about 25 minutes.) When beans are the desired tenderness, remove from heat and rinse. Let cool.

Meanwhile, saute garlic in oil until golden. Add garlic to beans and mix with olive oil (enough to give the beans a luscious texture), oregano, salt, a twist of fresh lemon and a sprinkle of white balsamic vinegar. Add chile and mix again (I used hot Kashmiri, but any will do).

Feel free to use different herbs. Rosemary is a wonderful accompaniment to beans such as these. Dunk the sprigs into boiled water for a moment to release the herb’s aroma. Chop and add to beans as you would the oregano.

Serve at room temperature. And think of the ancient ones