One of my consistently top-ranked posts on my personal blog is my account of “Cooking in Laos”, where I describe how to make Fish Laap. This dish is known by a number of names:
- Laap Pa
- Larb Pa
- Fish Laap
- Fish Larb
- Laotian Fish Salad
- etc. etc. etc.
The ladies I worked with at the National University of Laos’s Central Library called it “Laap Pa”, and when they wrote it in English, spelled it with a P. In the Lao language there really isn’t an “R” sound, though there is in Thai. Apparently there used to be an “R” (though this could be total hearsay), but then the government made “R” illegal, and now recently they have decided to re-introduce it to the Lao language. Anyway, you can just call it “Lao Fish/Beef/Chicken/Tofu Salad”, depending on what protein you use.
After my trip to the fish-boat a few weeks ago, I made some Fish Laap for my flatmates.
Make sticky rice and sticky rice powder
Sticky rice, or “glutinous rice”, is a different variety of rice than the regular long/short grain deal. It must be soaked for 5 hours, before being steamed. Traditionally it’s steamed in a wicker basket, but I don’t have one here in NZ. I used a metal colander.
I posted a detailed description of how to make stick rice on my personal blog here:
To make sticky rice powder, dry roast some sticky rice in a frying pan.
Once it’s cool, put it in a blender or food processor and try to grind it up into the finest powder you can.
Preparing the laap
Take your fish.
As I mentioned in my last post, I used Terakihi. This is a salt-water fish available in NZ. In other countries, I’d recommend using Tilapia. I had the fish man clean it (scaled, innards removed), but not filleted. If you’re afraid of fish heads, you could get it fillets, but that’s really wasteful… in my opinion.
Cut it up into pieces.
Remove the fish from the water, and then let it cool. Once it’s cool enough to handle, remove the flesh from the bones and eyeballs and fins and whatnot.
Now, prepare the rest of your ingredients.
Mint – a lot! Coarsely chopped. This is actually not enough. You should have twice this amount.
Ginger grated, 2 tbs
Onion finely sliced.
- 1 stalk fresh lemon grass, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch fresh Thai basil, coarsely chopped
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 tbs fish sauce
- 2 tbs sticky rice powder
Mix it all together… and eat with sticky rice – no silverware required!
Substituting chicken, beef, pork, or tofu for the fish is certainly acceptable. The dish should be served fresh – and at room temperature.