Sep 22, 2007
Crushing the freshly toasted peanuts in the koke
Yam salat has to be one of the few true vegetarian dishes in Laos, that is if you don’t throw in any pork, and you can overlook those undeveloped chicken embryos.
It’s now the end of the summer and all of the garden seems to be reaching it’s prime at the same time. Almost all of the vegetables for this salad were home grown. The tomatoes are ripening so fast we are having to freeze many of them for the cold winter months and the seeds from the celery that Creagy poured into the garden while no one was looking has given us a mini celery forest. The lettuce is the second crop that my wife started back in mid August to take advantage of the cool fall days. The cilantro just keeps coming up, as long as we remember to let some go to seed and to turn it over into the soil. Cucumbers have been appearing regularly since the beginning of August. The green onions we dig up and replant when they get too bitter, somehow the first shoots from onions are sweetest.
Above is some of the celery. This variety is from Laos, it never forms the stalks we are familiar with in the United States. It’s only grown for the leaves which are eaten as a leafy vegetable, great in soups.
Behind the celery is the leaf lettuce in clumps. This batch started off slow in the heat of the summer. The lettuce from the spring was a lot larger.
In this sauce I think there were four eggs used. They are hardboiled, the yolks are set aside for the dressing and the whites are sliced into the salad. Besides this big spoonful of squeezed lime juice there’s also a quarter cup of water, some bang nua, and a little salt.
On top of everything else is some toasted crushed peanuts. The peanuts come uncooked and unsalted, I guess from the Vietnamese grocery where we buy everything else. I don’t know why but peanuts quickly lose their fresh toasted taste. Best to cook them just before making the salad.
Not mentioned is mon pao, a crunchy white tuber that is often sliced thin and added for it’s texture as well as it’s sweet apple like taste. (sorry don't know English name) We didn’t have any. People also use any sort of salad green they have, water cress is popular. I’ve never seen nam pa, hot peppers, or garlic of any kind. Sometimes bits of pork. Moo sam san lightly fried is great. Of course just after I posted this a friend told me he has had yam salat with nam pa, I asked my Lao consultant and she said yes some people mix it into the sauce.
(notice the celery greens?)
The peanuts are sprinkled over the salad, the sauce is poured on, everything is tossed to get good coverage, and voila, yam salat.
Also…. A lot of times I eat the salad hours after it’s made, or even the next day. The greens wilt and give up their juices quickly so that the whole salad is swimming in the much thinner sauce. I love it. I even drink down the sauce from the bowl as long as no one is looking. This drunken salad affect is how I’ve most often bought yam salat in Laos served up out of trays at the buffet at the airport, or in bags at the Luang Prabang night food market.
A lot of these photos I’ve taken at the high ISO setting. I get sick of trying to hand hold at 1/5th of a second. Sometimes 800 sometimes a thousand or 1600. For you purists,, sorry.