I was wandering along Thanon Sakarin in old Luang Prabang when I chanced upon jeow bong being made on the street. This is the signature chilli paste of Luang Prabang.
Jeow bong is eaten with fried or grilled river algae sheets kai paen or kai phene, grilled dried beef gee sin lod or steamed vegetables. It is also served as an accompaniment to sticky rice or added to stir fries. One type includes simmered finely sliced buffalo or beef skin (traditional) or pork skin which adds a rich chewy texture. The other omits the skin and is more akin to the sweet Thai chilli paste such as Thai Mae Pranom brand.
I was offered to stir the jeow – it was very thick as it had been slowly cooking for 2 hours. No wonder the young man stirring
looks knocked out! I also tasted the thickening brew – a wonderful mix with flavours of garlic, galangal root, sugar and chillies predominated. It probably also had chopped shallots and salt. The skin had already been prepared and the warm salted water had just been poured into the street gutter. I think that had been being prepared for the same amount of time as well, but I’m not sure that I heard the Lao correctly.
I haven’t got a recipe for the large scale making of this jeow but there are several recipes for making small quantities.
Here is a link about jeow bong:
Here is my jeow bong recipe
Luang Prabang chilli paste ແຈ່ວບອງ jeow bong
3 large heads of garlic (about 1 cup)
½ cup shallots
1 thumb-size piece of galangal chopped into small pieces
½ – 1 teaspoon salt
1 – 2 tablespoons dark red, roasted chilli flakes
2 teaspoons sugar
Water or fish sauce to thin, if needed
- Roast or grill the garlic and shallots until cooked through. Meanwhile, in a mortar pound the galangal.
- Peel the garlic cloves and shallots, add to the mortar along with the salt and pound to a paste. Stir in the chilli flakes. Add the sugar and pound to mix. Taste and add water, fish sauce (or soy sauce for vegetarians) or more chilli flakes.
- Transfer the mixture to a small frying pan and dry fry on a very low heat for 10 minutes until rich, dark and aromatic. The flavour develops over time.
I need to make this again, because I think that it would be better to make a syrup of palm sugar instead of using ordinary sugar and then cook this down for longer.