Source: NY Times
IT is a long way, Kwan Bellhouse said last week, from planting rice in her parents’ paddies in northeastern Thailand to roasting it in Kwan Thai, her small restaurant here in Rockland County.
“Only the smell is the same,” she said, as the raw grains turned from starched white to dark brown, and the lime leaves and lemon grass fronds she added to the kata (a wood-handled wok) curled and singed. The roasted rice and herbs would be ground into a smoky, nutty powder that gives depth to her larb gai, a dish of chopped chicken, mint, basil and red onions dressed with lime juice and ground red chilies. (The dish is sometimes spelled laab, lob or lop.)
“We never get tired of eating larb, 24 hours a day,” she said. Ms. Bellhouse’s “we” refers to the people of Isan, a rural section of Thailand where she grew up, and where her parents still grow purple, jasmine and sticky varieties of rice.
Isan borders on Laos, and regardless of modern political boundaries, the people of the region have traditionally shared a language, a climate (hot, steamy) and a love for two foods: larb and green papaya salad, made from the crisp, pale green flesh of unripe papayas mixed with garlic, lime juice, tomatoes and chilies.
I've never tried Thai food! I'm afraid it's too hot and my tongue doesn't handle spices well. I might try to make it, with less spices but then it probably won't be as good.
Here are the recipies.
Chicken With Lime, Chili and Fresh Herbs (Larb Gai)
Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum)