Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Thai Cabbage Rolls

I have the most amazing network of friends from my years of living around the world. I'm sitting here one day hungry for something but not sure what and then it hit me: LARP. It's actually pronounced laap kind of like the sound a sheep makes and it comes from Thailand. We have a bit of property in Wasilla, Alaska that we will build a log home on (if I can ever get my wife to stop getting promoted and retire) and our neighbors are super cool. Dave's an airline pilot and Helen just happens to have grown up as a missionary kid in Thailand where she learned how to cook. Put these situations together and you can guess where it's going. Helen makes the most amazing, flavorful Thai food in the universe and when she combines it with the food available in Alaska you often get unique creations like Thai larp made with moose meat instead of hamburger.

So when I realize that this is what I want I shoot an e-mail to Helen begging for the recipe and asking how much snow they have (because food and snow are both very important to me) and a few minutes later I have the secret in my sweaty little hands. Larp is usually eaten with Thai sticky rice using your hands but I didn't have any, nor do I have my Thai rice steamer thingy anymore but the meat alone was a great comfort. A few weeks later I decided to adapt it to my now-Primal lifestyle (I omitted the roasted rice flour) and my family loved it. So here, written from my computer outside of Tokyo is my adapted Thai larp recipe made possible by my good friends in Alaska.

Thai Cabbage Rolls with Cabbage Salad


2 pounds hamburger (for those days when you're all out of moose meat)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp. chili powder
2 T. fish sauce
1 lime
4-6 green onions, sliced
1/2 C. fresh cilantro, chopped

2-3 slices fresh ginger

1 cabbage (Napa is my preference but work with what you have)
1 hot red pepper, dried, chopped
pinch each of kosher salt/ fresh cracked black pepper
sesame oil
rice vinegar
slivered almonds

Thai cabbage rolls starting point
Brown your hamburger with the garlic, drain. Add chili powder, fish sauce, cilantro and the white part of your green onions to the hamburger. Squeeze the juice/pulp from your lime over mixture while stirring. I chop and save the green part of the onion for use in other foods or as a garnish.

While your meat is browning pick the outer leaves from your cabbage and wash. I soften mine by putting them in the microwave for 3-5 minutes. Err on the firm side as they'll soften up when you steam them. Now's a good time to get your steaming setup going as well. Place your fresh ginger in the water of your steamer to infuse the cabbage leaves with a bit of flavor.

Cabbage cup before
Hold one cabbage leaf in your hand and place a scoop of the larp in the middle (2-3 spoonfuls is what I used with my leaves) fold the sides of the leaf back over the larp, then roll the tip back towards the stem making a nice little cabbage roll. Place on the steamer pan and when it's full put the rack over the ginger water and cover. Steam anywhere from 5-8 minutes depending on the size/number of rolls. I made 12 of them and had larp leftover to eat the next day at lunch.

Completed cabbage roll
For the salad, chop the remainder of your cabbage into very thin slices, the thinner the better, and into a mixing bowl. I buy these little red peppers at the local farmer's market about 1-1/2 inches long. No idea what they're called but they're mildly hot and I usually cut up one into tiny pieces to give a little kick to the otherwise bland cabbage. Add a pinch of salt/pepper to the mix. Sesame oil and rice vinegar to taste (I never measure) and mix. Top with slivered almonds and you're done!

Ready for the steamer

Serves 3-4 or maybe 2 really hungry folks.

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