Thursday, April 8, 2010

Going for the Greens: Lao Watercress Salad

When I was in Laos, I didn't eat too many fresh vegetables. Loads of cooked veg, but not much with that crisp and crunch of veggies when they're fresh and raw. It was mostly out of concern for getting sick from the water they were grown with or washed with. I didn't shy away from fresh vegetables completely - to the astonishment of my very sick co-travelers - but tucking into a big, fresh salad, as is my nearly daily tradition, didn't really ever happen.

Except for once.

In Luang Prabang, we went to eat at the acclaimed L'Elephant Restaurant. With every assurance that the water source was safe for foreign tummies, I ecstatically ordered a beautiful watercress salad. Heaven.

So, naturally, I became a fan of said watercress. I've always liked it, but something about having fresh, green, tender watercress in Laos after endless days of curried, stir-fried and boiled vegetables was a revelation. The recipe I've included here isn't the same salad I had at L'Elephant (rather, it's a recipe from one of my souvenir cookbooks), but it's stellar. The warm dressing is what sets it apart - it uses a hard-boiled egg yolk which acts as a thickener/binder; the heat slightly wilts the greens and herbs - and the result is dee-lish.

Luang Prabang Salad
Ant Egg Soup, Natacha Du Pont De Bie

This is a delicious salad which is served all over Laos but particularly in Luang Prabang Province. The dressing is cooked in a wok for a few seconds then poured over the salad.
  • 1 crisp lettuce, such as cos (cos = Romain; I had to look it up)
  • 1 large bunch watercress, the wilder the better
  • 1 bunch mint leaves, stalks removed
  • 1 small handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • 1 small handful dill
  • 2 spring onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 small fragrant tomatoes, cut into eighths
  • 6 rounds of cucumber, cut in half
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, whites only, sliced
  • 1 small handful of chopped roasted peanuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 hard-boiled egg yolk
  • a little sugar
  • the juice of one lime
Assemble the salad ingredients on a plate to your own design.

Take the sliced garlic, spring onion and fish sauce and place them in a hot wok with a drop of oil. Cook for 10 seconds, stirring constantly, then add the cooked egg yolk and meld it in until it disappears into the sauce. Add a pinch of sugar and the lime juice and it's ready. Pour over the salad and top with chopped peanuts. Serve immediately or it will wilt.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes you just really crave that fresh crunch of vegetables! I getcha. Esp. right after winter!