This fragrant salad is a staple dish in Laos. It is seasoned with toasted rice powder—an important component of Lao cooking—which lends it a nutty aroma and a silky texture. Make your own toasted rice powder by following the directions below.
- 1 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 1⁄4″ cubes
- 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp. long-grain rice
- 1⁄4 cup thinly sliced scallions
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped mint leaves
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. peeled finely chopped fresh galangal
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped kaffir lime leaves
- 3 red Thai chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layers discarded, tender interior halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 2 round Thai eggplants, quartered (optional)
- 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into 1/4″ slices (optional)
- 1 bitter melon, peeled, seeded, and sliced on the diagonal into 1⁄4″ slices (optional)
- 1⁄4 head green cabbage, cut into wedges (optional)
- Place the pork in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, about 10 times. Transfer pork to a 12″ nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring constantly and breaking up pork with a wooden spoon, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Set aside to let cool briefly.
- Meanwhile, put rice into a 6″ cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook, swirling skillet constantly to prevent burning, until rice is the color of caramel and smoking, 3–5 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and pulse to a fine powder.
- In a bowl, mix together the pork and rice powder along with the scallions, cilantro, mint, lime juice, fish sauce, galangal, shallots, lime leaves, chiles, and lemongrass. Stir until well combined. Transfer salad to a platter and serve with the eggplants, cucumber, bitter melon, and cabbage, if you like.