Monday, November 30, 2009

Laotian Beef Stew: Aw

The weather has gotten colder in the evenings here. It's perfect time for soups and stews. I'll be eating a lot of pho in the coming weeks. I decided to try (my first time) to cook Laotian Beef Stew. It's called aw (I'm not sure how it's spelled. Under Wikipedia it is called Or Lam, a spicy stew. I remember my mom and dad always cooking this. Dad loved soups and stews. Almost every meal started off with broth or soup. My parents always had a garden at every house we lived in. So all the ingredients were always available to make Or Lam, such as mustard green, long beans, egg plant, chili peppers, lemon grass, and herbs.

Before cooking the stew I needed rice powder. I've never made it before. After a frantic text message to my older sibling, I was brave enough to toast my rice. I took a handful of uncooked sticky rice and placed it in a frying pan and turned my burner to medium. Now you must watch it, don't walk away or you'll have blackened rice. I recall my mom toasting it until the rice was almost black and the house filled with smoke. The rice is then put in a mortar and pounded with a pestle into a powder (picture below).

I am only going to use 2-3 Tablespoons of this.

I don't have an exact recipe. I was trying to copy my mom's dish. I think I came close.
Or Lam:

1/2 lb. Beef
Beef Tendon (I have never seen raw beef tendon before I purchased them last weekend at the Asian market. I brought them home and washed them and wasn't sure how to 'clean them'. I took 2 pieces and cooked them on medium low heat with salt, ginger, lemon grass, and kiffir lime leaves for 2 hours.)

Flavoring: Chili peppers, garlic, lemon grass, kiffir lime leaves, red onion, and green onions. Fish sauce and toasted rice powder.
Vegetables: Mustard green, Thai eggplant, and ngo om (rice paddy herb).
Cooking: Ideally I would've wanted to take the first 6 flavoring ingredients and run them through a food processor. I don't have one so I used my mortar and pestle.
1. I heated up my pot. To it I added cooking oil and the mixture from the mortar. Then I added the beef and let it brown.
2. I then added a pinch of salt and 2.5 tablespoons of the toasted rice powder.
3. Then I added 1.5 C of water and covered the pot with a lid.
4. I let it cook for 5 minutes and then added my eggplant which has been quartered and the beef tendon. I let it cook uncovered until the stew got thick and the eggplant got soft. I was so excited about my stew turning out so good that I totally forgot about my greens and the herb. I had to add another 1/2 C of water because the stew had thickened too much and I worried my greens wouldn't cook down. So my finished stew is not thick like I normally like it to be.
5. I added the greens and the herbs and let the stew cook for a couple more minutes with the lid on.
I served the stew with steamed white rice.
Things I would've done differently: add more rice powder, not add more water. My stew tasted almost as good as my mom's. With more pratice I will get there.