This is a Thai salad called laap, which, my sources tell me, means "good fortune." Why am I making salad when it's -16C outside and just about the kind of weather where I'm getting cold if I don't wear socks to bed? Well, because I didn't...quite...realize it was, in fact, a salad. The recipe was so interesting I became fascinated by the process, and the picture in my sourcebook, which is a promising new cookbook I acquired just yesterday called The Food of Asia, doesn't give much away. The Food of Asia is one of those cookbooks without an author (or rather, without a single author would be more apt) that I got on sale at Chapters, but it's so big I had to reorganize my recipe book cupboard to accommodate it, and so beautiful that I was turning pages for 45 minutes tonight before I finally decided what to make, thinking as I turned each page, "Oh, yes, this! I'll make this one! No, that one!" I'm sure you know how it is.
What finally settled me on this particular recipe was a failure from yesterday, of these:
They don't necessarily look like failures, but what these are is seitan meatballs held together with urad flour, a la my dumplings of genius. One day very soon my recipe for these is going to strike the vegan world like a planet, but yesterday wasn't that day. They were too tough (okay, in my book that in itself is encouraging, since most vegan meatballs tend to be delicate) and rather tasteless. Or, no, not rather. Very. Unfortunately, I took a few to my sister Dianne's birthday party yesterday, and, surprisingly, several people tried them. This has never happened before, with seitan. Alas, that was one lost for the cause! But I will win them back, I hope.
|Little mise en place of what you add to the seitan in the pan|
adapted from The Food of Asia
1 1/2 tsp jasmine rice
1 tbsp peanut or canola oil
5 oz ground seitan or reconstituted TVP
2 tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce + a tiny crumble of wakame (this is a substitute for fish sauce; if you don't have wakame, just use the soy sauce)
1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, finely sliced
1 oz shallots or red onions, finely sliced
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1/4 - 1/2 tsp red pepper powder
raw vegetables such as snake beans (yard long beans; surprisingly good raw--I didn't believe it until I tried them); cucumber slices, thin wedges of cabbage, sprouts, sliced tomatoes
|Why yes, I believe that is a cat hair!|
Fry the jasmine rice in the oil. Do not skip this step and do not substitute; the taste of this is vital to the dish. When the rice is brown, strain it over a small container to separate the oil, and let the rice cool. When it's cool and relatively dry, grind it up in a mortar and pestle or small blender. The smell of this had me swooning and won me over to this dish before I had gone any further.
Now heat the strained oil in a skillet and add your seitan or reconstituted TVP, along with the lime juice and soy sauce/wakame mixture. Cook until the seitan is light brown, and remove from heat.
Here's the surprising part. Add the rice powder, lemongrass, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, spring onions, and chili powder. And...that's it. That's the dish. Mine was quite dry (no doubt owing to the toughness of my seitan), so I added a bit more water and zapped it on high heat just for ten seconds or so to get the water absorbed. It should look something like this:
It's just so good, full of tart, strong, but complimentary flavours, predominantly the fried rice and kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Then you serve it on and with a selection of raw vegetables. Here was mine:
What an astonishing recipe. I loved it and will certainly make it again.