Spicy Steve's Lao Recipes
(Pon Pa Leum)
This simple recipe comes from Phia Sing, who was a cook in the old Royal Palace at Luang Prabang and complied a collection of 114 recipes. He died in 1967. Because the Mekong runs through Laos, fresh water fish are an important part Lao cuisine. This recipe is from a direct Lao translation so in a book entitled Traditional Recipes of Laos, edited by Alan and Jennifer Davidson and published in 1981 by Prospect Books. Since it is not easy to roast your eggplants, garlic, shallots and chillis in the embers of a charcoal fire, try charing them over an open flame as you would roast a red pepper or roast them with a touch of oil in the broiler until they start to char slightly black.
1 piece of pa leum (a large catfish), free of bones, the size of a hand-wash it, slice it thinly, put it in a pot with water barely covering it, sprinkle it with salt and fish sauce (it should be quite salty), boil it until cooked, then take the pot from the fire
6 sweet young round eggplants
2 (small) heads of garlic
4 (small) shallots
3 fresh chilli peppers
These four ingredients above are to be cooked in the embers of a charcoal fire, then peeled and pounded together to constitute the kheuang hom
1 straight-bulbed spring onion-chop both the bulb and the leaves finely
1 sprig of coriander, chopped
2 Kaffir lime leaves, chopped
salt and fish sauce
Combine the boiled fish with the kheuang hom in a mortar and pound together finely. Then add the water in which the fish was cooked and stir until the mixture is thick (i.e. like a thick soup). Add the spring onion and chopped Kaffir lime leaves. Do not let the mixture become either too thick or too runny. Taste, and check the saltiness. Arrange the mixture on a platter, garnish it with the chopped coriander and serve it with Keng Som (a sour soup), young cucumbers and other vegetables which are suitable accompaniments.