This month Food of the World travels to Laos, neighbor to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Laos has the distinction of being the only country in Indochina without a coastline, which made it a huge trading hub. Much of what we consider Thai cuisine is heavily influenced by Laotian cooking. The food is simply prepared with sticky rice served at nearly every meal. We enjoyed our rice with a fragrant eggplant that’s a little more tangy than sweet and sour. It has a nice zing from fresh ginger and is worth adding to other eggplant dishes that may be in your rotation.
The recipe from Food.com popped up when I searched Laotian recipes but I’m not sure how authentic it is. It’s an oil free vegan recipe and the flavors are wonderful so I’m not going to complain. Cooking Laotian style gave me the opportunity to experiment with cooking glutinous rice. It took a couple tries to get a good result. Since we don’t have a rice cooker I steamed the rice in a mesh colander (affiliate link) placed inside a large dutch oven. It worked but in the future I’ll stick with my favorite jasmine or basmati rice which doesn’t require a long soak and for my taste has a better flavor.
Be sure to measure the rice and soak it the day before or earlier in the day. Glutinous rice doesn’t expand a lot so if you want four servings measure it directly into a container and cover with water. I use 3 or 4 cups for four servings. Before cooking, heat a couple inches of water to a gentle boil in a saucepan large enough to hold a mesh colander. Swirl and rinse the rice several times then drain it into the colander. Arrange the colander over the boiling water and put the lid on. After 20 minutes use a large spoon or spatula to turn the entire mass of rice over and cook for another 20 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, prep the ingredients for the eggplant and have them ready to go. If you start cooking when the rice is turned over everything will come together at the same time.
- ¼ cup soy sauce (four tablespoons, I used tamari)
- 2 - 3 tablespoons sugar (I used dark cane sugar)
- 1⁄4 cup vinegar (I used sherry vinegar)
- 1⁄4 cup water
- 1 large or 2 small eggplant, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon dry sherry for steam saute OR olive oil
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- an inch or so of fresh ginger, sliced into matchsticks
- the white part of a leek, sliced into half moons (the original recipe calls for scallions)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, tapioca or maizena
- Stir the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Set aside.
- Heat the sherry and red pepper flakes in the bottom of a large skillet.
- Steam saute the leeks until softened, then add the eggplant and ginger.
- Cook until the eggplant is soft and begins to collapse, 10 minutes or so. Add more water or sherry as needed to prevent sticking.
- Stir in the sauce and cook until the eggplant is done and the sauce has reduced somewhat.
- Push the eggplant to the sides of the pan and make a slurry with the cornstarch and a couple tablespoons of water. Add the slurry to the center and stir to combine and thicken the sauce.
- Season with salt and pepper as desired and garnish with parsley.
- Serve with rice.
Don’t forget to drop by the Food of the World Party and explore the tastes of Laos.