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The national dish of Laos.
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 tablespoon sticky rice (uncooked; you can substitute regular white rice)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound ground pork (450g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 1/2 limes (juiced)
  • 1 red chili (sliced)
  • 3 shallots (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • 3 scallions (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 cup mint
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts (papery skins removed)
  • 1/2 papaya (hard, green, unripe; about 1 pound, peeled; can substitute with mango)
  • 2 large carrots (peeled)
  • 3 cloves garlic (medium, peeled)
  • 4 Thai chilies (small and green; or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup dried shrimp (small)
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar (at room temperature)
  • 2 ounces string beans (cut in 1-inch pieces; haricot verts can be used)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes (cut in half)

LAAP & SOM TUM INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a dry wok or pan over low heat, toast the rice grains, stirring continuously until they turn golden and fragrant––about 10 minutes. Grind to a coarse powder in a mortar & pestle. Set aside.
  2. Place your wok back over high heat until smoking. Add the 1 Tbsp. oil and the 1 lb. ground pork. Stir-fry until the pork is browned, and add in the toasted rice powder, 1/4 tsp. sugar, 1 Tbsp. fish sauce, and lime juice from 1 lime.
  3. Stir-fry for another minute, and then add in 1 red chili, 3 thinly sliced shallots, 3 chopped scallions. Stir-fry for one more minute, and then taste for seasoning, adding more chili, sugar, fish sauce, and/or lime juice to your taste if needed.
  4. Take off the heat and add 1/4 cup fresh cilantro and 1/2 cup mint.
  5. For the Som Tum: Put all the peanuts, with the exception of one tablespoon, in the mortar and pestle. Lightly pound until they are broken into small pieces but are not powdered. Set aside. Coarsely chop the remaining tablespoon of peanuts for garnish. Set aside in a separate bowl.
  6. Shred the green papaya: After peeling the papaya, remove the dark seeds from the center cavity.
  7. Place the flat side of the papaya on the cutting board and, using a Thai handheld shredder, lightly pull the tool down the outside of the fruit in order to rough up the surface. Applying a little more pressure, continue pulling the shredder lengthwise down the papaya, producing long, coarsely julienned strands. You’ll need 3 to 3-1/2 cups of shredded fruit.
  8. Repeat with the large carrots, for 1 to 1½ cups of shredded carrot.
  9. Place the 3 cloves garlic and 3-4 green chilies with a pinch of salt in the mortar and smash them with the pestle to make a paste. Add the dried shrimp and pound lightly, just enough to break the flesh. Do not pulverize the shrimp.
  10. Add the 2 Tbsp. palm sugar, shredded papaya and carrot, string beans, and cherry tomatoes. With a pestle in one hand and a large kitchen spoon in the other, simultaneously pound and toss the ingredients until they are mixed well. The objective is to gently bruise the fruit and vegetables—only to soften them so that their flavors begin to melt into each other. Tossing with the spoon further mixes the ingredients, ensuring that everything is well-coated with palm sugar.
  11. Add the crushed peanuts and, again, lightly pound and toss the salad. Pour in the 3 Tbsp. lime juice and the 3 Tbsp. fish sauce and continue to toss until all the ingredients are flavored with the seasonings. At this point, you can briefly refrigerate the salad while you prepare the rest of the meal. When ready to serve, garnish with the chopped peanuts.