This week I’m sharing a recipe from Michael Rice of Mad Priest Coffee Roasters. Each month or so Michael has been featuring one of his coffees and the country it’s from, along with a recipe from that country. Mad Priest’s mission is to “craft good coffee, educate the curious, and champion the displaced”. The coffee/country/recipe combination is one of the ways they are doing that. This month’s country is Laos, the coffee is Typica from Nongsamphan, and the recipe is for Beef Larb. Although the recipe contains some exotic ingredients, they are available locally and there are ingredients found at the market as well.
Quite a few ingredients can be found at market, in fact: beef, spring onions, mint, cilantro, cucumbers, and lettuce are available right now, though you might want to plan ahead and ask your farmer about such large quantities of mint and cilantro. Lemongrass may be available and hot chilies will be as the weather continues to warm up.
For the galangal and fish sauces you will want to try an Asian or other specialty store. Galangal is a rhizome, like ginger, but has a different flavor and a woodier texture. Find it at Asian Food and Gifts of Chattanooga, though I’ve heard it’s sometimes at Whole Foods as well. Or substitute fresh ginger. Ginger is always a nice flavor though it won’t be the same as galangal. Padaek is a fermented fish sauce and found at Asian gifts as well. If you love to DIY, recipes abound for this “lifeblood of Lao cuisine.”
And remember flowers for your table! Southerly Flower Farm is back at the market with spring flowers to brighten your table.
Photos by Zachary Cross
From Mad Priest’s website about Laos:
Laos has seen an incredible amount of upheaval and destruction since its independence from the French in 1954. The Laotian Civil War (the Communist Pathet Lao versus the Royal Lao Government) raged alongside the Vietnam War for many years, and by the end in 1975, around 25 percent of the population of Laos was displaced from their homes. Then the victorious Communist party cracked down on all dissention, and over the next two decades 360,000 Laotians (about 10% of the population) were forced to flee across the treacherous Mekong River to Thailand, from there resettling mostly in the US and France.
In the 1920s, the French first introduced coffee to the fertile Bolaven Plateau in Southern Laos, but the decades of continual violence obviously took a toll. Most notably, American B-52s relentlessly bombed sections of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that snuck into the Laotian jungle, killed an untold number of civilians and contaminated many coffee fields with craters and unexploded ordinances. But since 1992, when the Communist regime began to soften its stance, there has been a quiet rebirth of coffee as farmers have returned and the region's wounded fields are once again producing world-class beans.
About the featured coffee:
Laos, primarily known for their Robusta coffee, has had a rough past with frosts and rust diseases. But a resurgence of Arabica beans and a push to infiltrate the specialty market has allowed crops like this one to make their mark!
100% washed Typica from Nongsamphan. Grown at 1100-1250 masl (meters above sea level), you'll taste a strong rhubarb overtone with a dry green tea finish. An interesting brightness and a full earthy body makes this coffee worth trying!
About Beef Larb:
"Larb" means "Good Fortune" in Lao, and this spicy, tangy, salty Laotian beef salad is sure to bring you some! It is a party in your mouth and a culinary journey into the essence of Laos. While Laotians eat more sticky rice than any other people in the world, they also love meat (sometimes raw) and fresh vegetables. Galangal (a rhizome similar to ginger), lemongrass, and padaek (fermented fish sauce) are prominent flavors in Lao Cuisine.
What you need:
What to do:
Place the beef in a bowl with all marinade ingredients, combine well, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Heat a wok or frying pan until smoking hot. Add the vegetable oil and wait until it smokes. Add the beef and toss for just a few minutes (Beef Larb is generally medium-rare). Place the beef in a large bowl and toss with the fresh and dried chillies, ground toasted sticky rice, spring onion, mint, coriander and lemongrass. Serve with cucumbers, lettuce, watercress, and extra fresh herbs. If you like it spicy, you can experiment with more chilies, lime, and fish sauce.
*To toast the sticky rice, place in a dry wok and stir over medium heat until dark golden, then pound to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle or spice mill.
Printable recipe here
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