Hello. Have you tried Lao food before? It’s the best. But don’t take my word for it. Why not give it a go yourself? I’m running out of pretty flower photos to show. So today, I’m going to share a simple but moreish Lao recipe instead. It’s a good one to have under your belt. Let’s.
If you’ve tried Lao food before, then it’s likely that you’ve heard of the word ‘jeow’. It’s the all-encompassing term that refers to the omnipresent sauce and/or relish/dip that accompanies most Lao meals. From pungent/funky spicy wet dipping sauces to more thicker/drier, textural relishes/dips – jeow is made from a variety of different ingredients and exists in many forms. It is much loved. Consider it as your favourite, friendly, flavourful sauce or condiment.
One of my favourite relish style jeow is ‘jeow het’. It’s a mushroom based relish made from grilled mushrooms and other key jeow ingredients. It’s easy to make and tastes delicious. It pairs perfectly with sticky rice, meats and/or vegetables. Or served as a side with your favourite meal. All that you need to do is grill, slice, pound, mix, taste, serve and enjoy. It’s that simple. Give it a try and let me know what you think. 1
- about 10 cup mushrooms
- 5 chilies
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 shallots (or 1 onion)
- 2 spring onions
- 2 coriander
- 1 small piece of ginger
- ½ Tbsp of fish sauce
- ½ Tbsp of padaek (optional)
- pinch of salt
- pinch of sugar
- Cut the mushrooms into halves. Peel and cut the shallots into halves (or onion into quarters). Wash and cut the root ends off the spring onions and coriander (about ⅓). Reserve the top ends of the spring onions and coriander. Peel the garlic cloves. Wash and slice the ginger.
- Grill the mushrooms, chilies, garlic, shallots (or onion), spring onion and coriander root ends, and ginger until soft and just lightly charred.
- When done, thinly slice the mushrooms, shallots (or onion), and spring onion and coriander root ends.
- With a mortar and pestle, pound the chilies, garlic and ginger to a medium consistency. Add the sliced mushrooms, shallots (or onion), and spring onion and coriander root ends. Continue to gently pound and mix together. Use a spoon to help.
- Add the fish sauce, padaek (optional), salt and sugar and gently mix well.
- Taste and adjust to suit your palate. The flavour you're aiming for is a delicious balance of savoury, salty and spicy, with a hint of sweetness.
- Thinly slice the reserved washed spring onion and coriander leaves and stir through with a spoon. As an option, garnish and serve with extra sliced spring onion and coriander leaves, and/or chargrilled chilies.
- Enjoy with rice, pasta, bread, meats and/or vegetables.
- This recipe is my own version of jeow het. It’s not classic traditional. You can call it modern Lao or Lao Australian. It’s easy to make but just takes time and love. But the final product is delicious/sap and well worth the effort. I learnt it from my mum and have made it my own along the way. It’s adaptable and once you know how, you’ll be able to make tomato, eggplant and even dried fish jeow/relish too. Most Lao meals (except for noodle soups) are served with sticky/glutinous rice and eaten with hands (more specifically, fingers). Jeow, in particular jeow het pairs perfectly with sticky rice (or normal steamed rice for that matter). Sticky rice can be difficult to find and involved to make, so we often eat normal steamed rice at home. Saying that, our rice cooker recently carked it so we enjoyed this jeow het with risoni pasta instead, to help illustrate its versatility. It’s unusual/different but not so in our household. It all tasted delicious together and no one complained. If you want, you’ll also enjoy it with bread. Give it a try. We have and love it. It goes well with most things really. Jeow usually keeps well in a container in the fridge. I made the jeow het yesterday and we’ll be enjoying it for a few more days. It’s best served cold and if you want, you can freshen up a serve with a very light squeeze of lemon/lime juice, but not too much. 1-5 chilies is a good amount of chilies to start with, especially if your spicy food tolerance is not too high (you’ll need at least 1 chili). I normally use 20 chilies, just joking. Normally, shallots are used to make jeow but the local shop didn’t have any so I used an ordinary brown onion instead. It tasted fine. The padaek (Lao fish sauce) is optional if you have it around. It adds a splendid extra umami dimension to the dish. Pickled gouramy fish extract/sauce (available from some Asian grocery stores) makes a good substitute. If you can’t get it, just change the quantity of the fish sauce from half to 1 Tbsp instead. If you want to be fancy, you can use a mix of different types of mushrooms (enoki and large flat mushrooms work well). If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can mix the thinly sliced ingredients together in a bowl. It should turn out delicious too. Enjoy your meal, bon appetit, sern sap! ↩