A food from the forest, yanang is used throughout Thailand and Laos. The juice extracted from the leaves is used in all sorts of Lao recipes for bamboo dishes, especially bamboo shoot soup, gaeng naw mai. A moke may be made with fresh rock algae and yanang juice. Tinned yanang juice is available from Asian food suppliers.
To extract the juice from yanang leaves, bruise the leaves with either a mortar and pestle or on a chopping board with a pestle or the back of a cleaver. Place the leaves in a bowl with 2 cups of cold water. Rub the leaves together to extract the aromatic juice. Alternatively, place the leaves and the water in a blender or food processor and mix until the liquid foams. Strain the resultant juice off and throw away the leaf remnants.
This is one of three recipes for gaeng naw mai from the cookbook “Food from Northern Laos”. It uses fresh bamboo shoots and yanang juice. The recipe was recorded in ant egg season (April – May), so ant eggs and acacia fronds were added. The recipe is perfectly fine without the ant eggs, and you can add a mix of beans, mak buab (or zuchini), squash tendrils, Lao basil and sawtooth herb (or coriander) cut in 5 cm pieces instead of the acacia fronds or leave the greens out entirely. Up to you!
N.B. One of the other recipes, gaeng naw mai som uses pickled bamboo shoots and the other, gaeng naw mai sai padek uses a piece of fermented fish from the padek pot as well as your choice of meat.
Serves four to six.
500 g – 1 kg (1 – 2 lb) fleshy pork bones chopped into small pieces (3 cm [1 in])
1 – 2 large handfuls yanang leaves to taste (or half a tin or more of yanang extract)
Water for soaking yanang leaves
3 T oil
5 cloves garlic
1 small white or red onion, chopped into thumb-size pieces or several shallots
5 T padek, boiled for 5 minutes to sterilize (or less to taste, or add some fish sauce at the end)
10 – 12 long reddish chillies
1 thick bamboo shoot, pre-cooked, finely sliced lengthwise and blanched (or about 2 cups tinned bamboo shoots)
2 C oyster mushrooms
2⁄3 C cloud ear mushrooms
1 bunch acacia fronds (pak la) (or your choice of greens)
1 C red ant eggs (optional)
Put yanang leaves into water and soak. Rub, squeeze and collect the liquid (or use tinned yanang extract).
In a large frying pan or wok, add the oil. When hot, add the garlic, stir briefly and then add the onion. When the onion is transparent, add the pork pieces, frying until sealed and succulent looking (about 5 minutes).
Put the yanang juice in a large pot along with the padek and chillies. If using yanang extract, add sufficient water to create a soupy stew. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pork and simmer for 5 more minutes. Stir in the bamboo shoots and simmer a further 5 minutes. Lower heat if needed and add the oyster mushrooms. Stir to mix gently.
Line up the fronds, so they face the same direction. Curl them on top of the stew; do not mix in. Leave to simmer for a few minutes, and then slip in the red ant eggs and cloud ear mushrooms trying not to disturb the fronds. Simmer for a few minutes more. Take off the heat and serve with steamed sticky or plain rice.
This article describes various Khmu fish dishes prepared by the men of Ban Chalensouk the morning after the party.
The farmed fish used are small tilapia – a sweet tasting freshwater fish much used in Laos and bought from the market that morning.
Three dishes were prepared and served with sticky rice – grilled fish flavoured with local herbs and chilli, a sour fish soup and a stew of spicy fish innards. The only thing not used from the fish were the scales. One bowl of fish thus served 20 plus people generously.
The fish were first of all scaled and gutted. The quantity was divided in two, one half to be grilled and the other half to be made into a soup. The guts were set aside for the stew.
The fish to be grilled were plastered on one side with a pounded mixture of lemongrass, green chillies, galangal, lemon (hairy) basil (pak i tou Lao) and finely chopped spring onion. Salt and msg were added. After seasoning, each fish was folded crossways to enclose the filling and secured between two pieces of split bamboo (mai heep neep) ready for traditional grilling over the open wood fire.
The second portion of the fish was made into a mild sour fish soup (gaeng som pa) which had lemon grass, a few green chillies, onions, tomato, salt and msg added.
The guts were made into a stew flavoured with pak i tou Lao (bai manglaek (Thai), lemon or hairy basil), chopped galangal, garlic, chillies, spring onions and fresh mak ken (a local version of Sechuan pepper).
Small cubes of coagulated pork blood were added later.
In all three dishes, msg and salt were the flavour-enhancers rather than fish sauce and Knorr stock powder, which are more recent influences. The food was delicious – the best grilled fish I’ve tasted!
Here’s a Lao recipe for a refreshing soup that goes well when a deep-fried dish is part of the meal. Soups (gaeng or keng) are eaten as the same time as other dishes, not served first.
½ small chicken, chopped into soup pieces (or thigh and wing piece)
1 l (5 C/ 2 pt) water
2 C green pumpkin, cut into bite-size chunks (substitute any firm squash)
1 C straw mushrooms (or torn oyster mushrooms, button mushrooms)
3 cloves garlic
1 t salt
2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 10 cm (4 in) lengths and roughly bruised to release flavour
2 – 3 slices galangal
5 small kaffir lime leaves
3 limes, juiced
2 – 3 T fish sauce (or to taste)
3 small spring onions, washed and trimmed of old leaves
3 small coriander plants, washed and trimmed of old leaves
In a medium pot, bring the water to the boil. Add the chicken pieces and return to the boil. Skim scum. Lower the heat and simmer the chicken for 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin, lemongrass, galangal and the kaffir lime leaves. Continue to simmer gently.
In a mortar, pound together the chillies and the garlic. Stir into the soup. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the mushrooms. Continue to simmer until the chicken is tender and the pumpkin is cooked. Add the lime juice and fish sauce. Taste and adjust flavourings, adding possibly more salt or lime juice. The predominant taste should be sour with a contrast of sweetness from the pumpkin and nuttiness from the mushrooms.
Remove the pot from the heat. Chop the spring onions and coriander together and stir them into the soup. Transfer the soup to a bowl and serve.
Add to soup just before serving. It can be eaten fresh with lahp or added to gaeng and stews at the end of cooking. Dill is an essential herb for aw lahm. It is used in fish moke and fish soup. Fennel leaves, which look similar to dill, are not used in Lao cooking and taste completely different.
This green has yellow flowers and long stems. It looks similar to pak kaat kuang tung only bigger, with longer stems. Steamed, it is used to scoop up jeow. It is also used in stir fried dishes. It can be used as a vegetable for gaeng or soups where a mixture of greens is required. It is an ingredient for vegetable soop, a cooked salad.
Chopped dried chillies are sprinkled over noodle dishes or added to a recipe to increase its hotness. In jeow bong, the flakes impart a deep red colour. Purchased chilli flakes are often old and have lost their colour and flavour.
To make fresh flakes, select deep red, almost burgundy dried chillies that smell of chilli and have no shrivelled yellow or brown tint to them. Choose ones that are either approximately 8 or 15 cm (3 or 6 in) long. Either dry fry or briefly shallow fry them until dark and crisp. Remove and cool. Break into pieces and remove seeds if desired. Pound or use a spice mill to create flakes. They store well for several months if the container is tightly sealed.
Chilli leaves ໃບໝາກເຜັດ bai mak pet
Use fresh, frozen or dried leaves of any chilli plant as flavouring for gaeng and aw (soups and stews). Substitute a chilli if leaves are not available. Alternatively, grow a chilli plant in your garden or in a pot.
Chillies, dried ໝາກເຜັດແຫ້ງ mak pet haeng
Medium-size dried red chillies are served deep-fried with kao poon or the noodle soup, kao piak. Large dried chillies are boiled for 15 minutes and minced finely for jeow and kao soi sauce. Drying is a simple way to preserve chillies.
Bird’s eye chillies, scuds ໝາກເຜັດຂີ້ໜູ mak pet ki nuu (‘mouse droppings’)
Very small and hot, these may be used for kao poon, chicken and pork curries and green papaya salad. Fry for pak bong fie daeng. Use in any lahp or sa.
Chilli peppers, large ໝາກເຜັດໃຫ່ຍ mak pet nyai
These long green or red chillies may be fried with pork or used in other stir fried dishes. Use in jeow and raw as a garnish. Peppers are dried and deep-fried as a garnish. The dried peppers are also soaked and finely chopped to make a spicy kao soi topping.
Hot chillies ໝາກເຜັດ mak pet
The most commonly used chillies in Laos, they are bigger and less hot than bird’s eye chillies. They are picked and sold at all stages of ripening – green, orange, turning red. Eat with kapi (shrimp paste) and noodles. They are added to aw lahm, jeow and many other dishes. Frequently they are strung on a strip of bamboo or a toothpick and grilled or roasted on hot ashes before using.
Pale green sweet chillies ໝາກເຜັດໃຫຍ່ mak pet nyai
These are often stuffed with fried minced pork or filled with a mixture of pork, lemongrass and rice or rice vermicelli and then steamed. Sliced in diagonal pieces, these chillies are used in stir fries.