Penn Hongthong, the author of Simple Laotian Cooking (Hippocrene, 2003), taught us that charring the vegetables for this dip is the secret to its smoky flavor.
- ¾ lb. cherry tomatoes
- 8 cloves garlic, halved
- 6 Thai chiles, stemmed
- 2 shallots, halved
- ½ red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded
- ¼ cups chopped cilantro
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- Steamed long beans, cut in segments
- Steamed cabbage, cut in wedges
- Raw Thai eggplants, quartered
Heat broiler; place a rack 4" from heat source. (Alternately, prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire; place a vegetable grate over the grill top.) Put tomatoes, garlic, chiles, shallots, and bell pepper on a foil-lined baking sheet (or on grill top if grilling). Broil or grill vegetables, turning once, until charred, about 8 minutes. Let cool.
Transfer garlic, chiles, shallots, and bell pepper to a food processor; pulse until chopped. Add tomatoes; pulse until just chunky. Transfer dip to a bowl; stir in cilantro, fish sauce, and salt.
Serve with long beans, cabbage, and eggplant.