Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hot Laphing

This weekend, I went to visit Tashi Jong for my first social visit in more than a year.  Of course, I went in large part to visit my friend Sonam, the one who taught me how to make the Summer Chili that I posted very early on in this history of this blog.  Sonam and her sister are absolutely amazing cooks.  I think I eat more when I visit them than any other time in India, except when I visit certain restaurants in New Delhi.

Anyway, not long after I arrived, one heckuva storm hit, knocking out power. This meant we had nothing to do but cook, eat, and talk.  I ended up staying the night because of the sheer strength of the storm (which is always a pleasure with Sonam's family) and I took that time to interrogate her about some of my favorite dishes from her home.  For now, I will just post the recipes. I hope to post a photo guide when I get back to the states.  So let's start with the most unique dish I've ever had at her home, one I've never had anywhere else and I've been craving in the two years since I first tried it: Hot Laphing.  It's a unique mix of Chinese influence in Tibetan cooking!

Now, I've made a Laphing post before, however this starts with a completely different kind of laphing entirely, so be ready for something completely different.

Sonam's recipe started off with "buy one block of white laphing," but for most of us not living in a few specific countries in Asia, that's not possible. Fortunately, white laphing is very simple to make, unlike it's yellow sibling. I'll dedicate a post to white laphing and it's accompanying sauces later, but making the laphing itself is quite simple so let's start with that.

White Laphing (Without Sauce)
1 package of Mung Bean flour (available at most asian groceries)

Take a very large pot on the stove, fill it about half way with water, get that going to a boil.

Meanwhile, take a pitcher and mix the mung bean flour and water until you have a liquid that looks like and has the consistency of light cream.

Slowly, and while stirring, pour the "cream" into the boiling water until you have an odd, gelatinous mess that is mostly clear, but slightly white-ish, like ice. It should not be white.  It should be distinctly translucent.  If it is white, the concentration of mung bean flour is too high and it will have a nasty consistency.

Here is a picture of finished white laphing (the blue is because it is under a tent).  Your gelatinous mess should be slightly-slightly more clear than this:

Once you have your weird gelatin, pour that into a wide tray, I usually use a cake pan, and let it cool and set.  This should take roughly an hour in a cake pan, less if you refrigerate it, and more if you use a deeper pan.  There you go! Laphing!

So now, what we use it for...

Hot Laphing
A large chunk of white laphing (say 2 cups per person), cut into 1" cubes
Vegetable oil
Finely chopped garlic
Meat, cut into bite sized pieces OR vegetables cut into bite sized pieces (less traditional and FAR less flavorful)
Erma/Hua Jiao (Sichuan peppercorns, mentioned at length here) finely ground-a few pinches
MSG (optional)-a large pinch
Salt to taste
Chili powder to taste
Sesame oil
Green onion, chopped

In a pot or pressure cooker, boil up the meat/veg in as little water as you can use to get it to boil.  We don't want to lose any flavor with excess water and we will be using the boiling water.  Just boil it for a minute or two, maximum.

In a large pot, heat up a few teaspoons of vegetable oil (enough to coat the bottom). When that's hot, toss in the garlic and stir until the garlic has browned and the oil has picked up the garlic aroma

Now add the meat/veg and when the oil has stopped sputtering, add some of the water from boiling (approx 1/3 cup per serving. NO MORE.  In fact it's better to go with less and you can add more later!)

Add powdered erma to taste, a pinch of MSG, salt to taste, chili powder to taste and let this cook together for a little while (a few minutes is all it needs).

Gently add the laphing, piece by piece.  Stir gently. It will break up a bit, but you don't want to break it up completely.  Break as little as possible. When the laphing is all stirred in, drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle the green onion over this.  Give that a gentle stir to mix it in.

There you go! A super quick meal that is absolutely delicious!

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