When I was last in Luang Prabang, I took a cooking class at Tamarind restaurant. At the class I learned how to make a simple jiew, a dip to be eaten with sticky rice, that contained little more than a few chargrilled grilled vegetables, salt and a pinch of monosodium glutamate. I also learned how to visibly anger people by telling them the name of a fruit they wanted to know the name of.
I love the Northern Thai and Lao method of utensil free eating with clumps of sticky rice, but I'm crap at having steamed sticky rice to hand. I do, however, always have 12,800 tubs of various edible dry goods that I always intend to use but rarely do. What, I need to soak these beans for 12 hours first? Forget it. Time for chips!
But I am determined to get through the contents of those containers in the next couple of months so I can
de-clutter my kitchen fill them up with the other foodstuffs hiding under the sofa so that I can buy other things to put under the sofa. Anyway, I succeeded in partially depleting the contents of one of those tupperware boxes with this recipe for a vegan Israeli couscous salad, which I would probably also make to eat with chips too.
Roasted Tomato and Green Chilli Pearl Couscous
Israeli couscous, or pearl couscous, are basically pasta balls with a wonderfully chewy texture. This is a simple but delicious way to prepare Israeli couscous and can be eaten hot or cold. The grilled tomato and chilli paste is based on a Lao jiew, or a dip eaten with fingerfuls of sticky rice. Add a pinch or two of MSG for added umami. If you're short on time, you can boil the couscous per packet instructions.
- 200 grams (1 cup pearl) couscous
- 10 millilitres (2 teaspoons) olive oil
- 300 millilitres (1 ¼ cup) water
- ¼ teaspoon granulated salt, divided
- 3 mild green jalapeño chillies
- 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 175 grams (4 small) tomatoes
- pinch sugar
- 2 tablespoons mix of chopped fresh dill, basil, chives, coriander
- 1-2 spring onions
- ¼ teaspoon ground sichuan peppercorns
- Squeeze or three fresh lime juice
- Heat a medium saucepan medium high heat. Add the oil and couscous, stirring often for about five minutes until most of the grains are golden. Turn the heat down to medium, add the water and ⅛ teaspoon of the salt, and simmer until the couscous has absorbed all of the water (around 12-15 minutes). Top up with more water if the contents of the pan dry out before they are fully cooked. Remove from the heat, cover, and leave for 10 minutes.
- Grill chillies, garlic, and tomatoes on a cast iron grill pan on medium high heat until charred evenly on all sides. Set aside to cool slightly for a few minutes. Peel the garlic and roughly chop the chillies and tomato. Pound together with the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt and sugar using a pestle and mortar. Add the herbs, spring onions, and ground sichuan peppercorn. Pound for a few seconds just to bruise the fresh ingredients and incorporate their flavours.
- If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, just dice everything finely and mix well.
- Mix with the cooked couscous and squeeze fresh lime over top. Season to taste.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Serves 2-4
- Cuisine: Lao + Israeli Fusion