Thursday, November 12, 2009

page 114: beef laap

this is another dish from penn's cook book that i've made several times. she calls it "beef lob," like if you're gonna lob it across the room at your significant other after you finish making it. (it's on page 114 of the book.) i spell it laab or laap, and in thai restaurants, its usually listed as larb (which sounds equally as unappetizing as lob.)

this is actually a pretty simple dish to make, and it goes great with sticky rice - so it's well worth the effort you'll put into it. really, its just beef (kinda minced) lightly cooked and then mixed with lime, fish sauce, hot peppers, lime leaves, rice powder, green onions, cilantro and mint.

but here is the main issue with penn's recipe: first off, penn starts with 1 pound of extra-lean ground beef. well, laap just doesn't taste as good when made like that. you really should start with some sorta beef steak and chop it up yourself, or it won't seem right. (i actually am not sure that i know the right way to chop up the beef, so i may need a little help with this. thus, any suggestions from this blog's vast readership [6-7 people?] on how this can be best accomplished would be appreciated.)

but after you've have cut up the meat (or bought it ground up,) just cook it in a pan to your liking, (preferably a bit rare,) and then let it cool some before adding in everything. i tried to follow penn's recipe, but it wasn't salty enough for me, so i added a little extra fish sauce, and of course, i added msg. (see the above picture, which was posed just for this blog.)

here's what you add and the amount:
lime juice (she says 2 table spoons for a lb of beef. i would put more than that...
salt and fish sauce (1/2 tsp, 1 and 1/2 respectively... or more.)
hot chilli pepper - as much as you can stand
kalanga powder (you can buy it at the asian store. or just get the fresh kind and use a lot of it.)
lime leafs - finely minced. penn says use two.
i like padek, (a good spoonful or two), but penn says nothing about it.
then a tablespoon of rice powder. (see page 113 for directions on how to do this, or read below.)
the rice powder (khao khoua) is pretty easy to come by: get some uncooked sticky rice (would somebody clarify this: when making it, don't you just use the glutinous rice - not the regular white jasmine rice?) then you'll want to "fry" it in a sauce pan till its rather dark and brown, stirring and shaking it constantly or it will burn real bad. either way, its gonna smoke a lot, so disconnect your fire alarm. then after it's cooled, pound it with your mortar and pestle (khok and sak) till you get a nice powder - kinda grayish brown lookin.
then after mixing all the above, add your herbs: scallion, mint, and Lao cilantro (tui says this is the essential secret to good laap, along with fresh galanga.) its smaller and almost dill-lookin.

i would also point out that with penn's recipe book, she once again shows that she really is making her recipes suitable to the delicate tastes of white people. i mean, she doesn't put anything in there that you'd expect to find in real laap. laap is really a repository for anything and everything from the cow. it's full of innards and squiggly pieces of meat that give it texture and flavor. but i am fine with the omission of all of that. plain beef is fine with me, although there is this one loopy-loops innard piece of the cow that i kinda like, but i don't know exactly what it is, and when eating real Lao laap, i've always been a little hesitant separate it out, hold it up in the air, and ask the cook, "an nii menh nhang?" see the above picture for what laap is kinda supposed to look like.

mine didn't turn out too well though. i used mint growing in the flower box under my living room window, and it gave it a slight dirt/pesticide flavor. additionally, i forgot to soak the sticky rice, so i had to eat my laap with jasmine. not my favorite way to do it, but oh well. stir-fried some vegetables and chicken, and there you go... i got them flowers from the neighbor's front lawn.

i am sure i am missing something here, so feel free to add your comments and suggestions.


stacy said...

That looks yummy! When I make chapche (a Korean beef dish), I get skirt steak from the butcher, and rather than mess with trying to slice it myself--which is really hard--I ask the butcher to slice it for me. They'll do it no problem, no extra cost.

mscinda said...

I'm not an expert in Lao cuisine, but I always thought that Beef Laab was made with grilled beef that has been sliced with innards such as tripe and liver then seasoned with roasted rice powder, peppers, herbs, green onions, lime juice, fish sauce, and padek. I've seen this dish called different things though (perhaps because it's sliced and not 'minced'?).

Basically, you grill the beef (medium rare) and slice it thin. Or take the grilled beef and 'chop' it into (small diced up pieces). I've never cooked laab with ground beef before. Nor have I used the pan fry method, except when cooking pork laab.

I usually cook pork laab (which looks more like the picture you posted of how laab should look), but I think my mom calls it goy/goi (not sure of the spelling) because it is made with ground pork meat. She calls it laab if the meat is sliced (beef laab) but calls it goy/goi if the meat is 'minced/chopped/ground' (as in chicken/pork laab).

Your food looks yummy. As for suggestions, I like those small, green eggplants or long green beans with laab. You're right about sticky rice being the way to eat laab. :)

Umm, why would your mint taste like dirt and pesticide?

jrm said...

thanks for the comment - as far as "minced" goes - yeah, i used that word incorrectly. i shoulda said thinly sliced... and i didnt even realize that was pork laap! i pulled the picture offline without even looking at it, (it was a thumbnail, and i just liked the greens with it i think.) you can kinda tell in my picture that i didn't mince the meat, but more sliced it.

but yes, that is definitely pork... also, i have never cooked laap where i cooked the meat first, but i like that. is that pretty standard? i really think that would change everything (in a good way.)

and the pesticide and dirt was a joke (since the mint came out of my planter box.) haha.

i am gonna go back for a round 2 on this and tell you how it goes. this dish really was weird for me, and it should be simple. i may even find someone i can watch make the dish (i have done this before, but its been a while) and give it another try.

thanks again for the comment! i feel like i am more likely to make it better next time. haha!