I have spent the past week cleaning, unpacking and organizing stuff and making different vegan mac and cheese dishes; at some point I will stop making them after my upcoming Philadelphia trip. I always longed for mac and cheese and the ingredient nutritional yeast whilst traveling. Nutritional yeast wasn’t a popular ingredient in Buenos Aires. Tonight, we fly to Philadelphia and we are looking forward to dining at The Vedge and other eateries.
One of the Lao/Thai dishes that I’ve been wanting to veganise and make is lap – a savory, sour and spicy salad made with any sorts of raw or cooked meat, tofu or mushrooms, and packed with fish sauce, lime juice, fresh herbs, chili, and ground toasted rice (known as khao khua). There are several alternate spellings for the dish depending on the regions in Thailand and Laos: larb, laap, larp, lahp, lap and lahb. The title of my dish “Lap Tao Hoo” (Spicy Minced Tofu Salad) is inspired by the “Lap dtow hoo kub hed” (Sour, Salty and Spicy Minced Tofu Salad Mixed with Roasted Rice Powder) at Pun Pun Vegetarian (Chiang-Mai, Thailand), the best lap I’ve ever had. It’s downright spicy, sour, not sweet, and savory, and full of flavors! And this fabulous lap happened – tastes exactly like it!
For the Lap Tao Hoo (Spicy Minced Tofu Salad) recipe, I used firm tofu. If you’re not a fan of tofu, use ground seitan, jackfruit or mushrooms instead of tofu. However, the seasonings in the recipe are a must to have! The lap is usually served with an assortment of fresh julienned or sliced vegetables and freshly steamed glutinous or regular rice. Or use them as fillings for collard wraps.
Ground Dried Thai Chili Peppers
First, let’s start with ground dried Thai chili peppers. It is one of the main ingredients in the lap dish. They are available at most Asian supermarkets. I used JHC Dried Thai Chili available on Amazon.com.
It’s very simple to ground the chili peppers: in a pan over high heat, add dried chili peppers. Keep stirring until slightly charred on all sides. Using a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, grind them into a fine powder (you may see some seeds and skin, it is optional to remove these for ground powder). Handle chili peppers with caution and transfer to a bowl and set it aside. You will have extra if you like very spicy lap.
After cooking in the pan: slightly charred dried Thai chili peppers in a mortar bowl
The result: ground dried Thai chili peppers. It is a better alternative to “dried chili flakes” and they became our favorite “spicy” condiment.
Vegan Fish Sauce
Another main ingredient in the lap dish is fish sauce, but vegan. View the full recipe + post here (gluten-free option available). It is one of my favorite homemade Asian condiments, I’ve used it in variety of Thai and Vietnamese dishes that call for fish sauce.
The Rest of the Ingredients
Clockwise from top left: Firm tofu, a small bowl of sliced shallots (soon will be fried & crispy), lemongrass rounds, chopped mint leaves, ground toasted rice, ground dried Thai chili peppers, a big bowl of sliced shallots, fresh lime juice and chopped cilantro leaves in the centre.
- In a large bowl, stir the water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves. Add the pineapple juice and light soy sauce and mix well. Refrigerate in a glass container or jar with a lid for an hour. You will use all of it in this recipe.
- In a pan over high heat, add the rice and keep stirring until slightly dark brown and toasted. Set aside to cool. Using a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, grind toasted rice into a fine rice powder. Transfer to a bowl and set it aside.
- In a pan over high heat, add dried chili peppers. Keep stirring until slightly charred on all sides. Using a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, grind them into a fine powder (seeds and skin will be visible, it is optional to remove these for ground powder). Handle chili peppers with caution. Transfer to a bowl and set it aside. You will have extra if you like very spicy lap.
- Make sure your sliced shallots are patted dry. In a microwavable bowl, add enough oil to cover the shallots. Place the bowl in the microwave and cook on high for about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring every minute until shallot turns slightly golden in color. Let them stand for 1 to 2 minutes in the hot oil and transfer them to a paper towel-covered bowl. Set aside to cool.
- Break up the tofu blocks into small crumbles with your hands, resembling ground "seitan."
- In a large saucepan, over medium heat, cook rice bran oil and tofu for 3 to 4 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Using a wooden spatula, break up tofu into smaller crumbles if there are still big lumps.
- Remove the pan from the heat immediately. Add the freshly sliced shallots and lemongrass rounds as quickly as possible and gently stir to combine. Add vegan fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and ground dried Thai chili peppers. Stir to combine. This is a mildly spicy dish. For medium heat, add additional ½-1 teaspoon, or very spicy, add additional 2-3 teaspoons to taste. Make sure you stir before tasting.
- Add the cilantro and mint and gently toss together. Garnish with fried shallots and toasted rice powder shortly before serving. Serve it with an assortment of raw vegetables, freshly steamed glutinous or regular rice. Or use them as fillings for collard wraps.
Add ¼ cup shredded carrots for a bit of texture.
I use this brand, Pearl River Bridge Superior Light Soy Sauce. It is GMO-free and contains no artificial colors. They are available at Asian markets or via Amazon.com. Light soy sauce is different than low-sodium or lite soy sauce, it is saltier than the soy sauce.
Gluten-Free Option for Vegan Fish Sauce: Instead of 2 Tbsp. light soy sauce, use 1 Tbsp. GF tamari, 1 Tbsp. GF chicken-free broth (Edward & Sons ) and additional 1 tsp. turbinado sugar. You want it to be slightly saltier and lighter.
Don't like Tofu? Use ground seitan or meat alternative, jackfruit or mushrooms instead of tofu.
Serve the Lap Tao Hoo (Spicy Minced Tofu Salad) with raw julienned carrots and cucumbers, topped with fresh mint leaves and fried shallots.
Or use the Lap Tao Hoo (Spicy Minced Tofu Salad) as fillings for collard wraps. It doesn’t have to be collards, it can be lettuce, kale, etc. It’s easy to prepare collard wraps. Cut off the stems at the base of each leaf and soak few leaves in a big baking pan of warm water and a bit of apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice) for about 3 to 4 hours at room temperature until soft and tender. Rinse and dry the leaves off with paper towels. Using a sharp paring knife, lay the leaf flat, carefully slice the “thick stems” (but leave the spine on) off the back of the leaf so as to make the collard leaf flatter and easier to roll. Use the discarded stems for your juices -mmmm!