Chef Saeng, our expert on cuisine from his native Laos, brings us a childhood favorite:
These tapioca dumplings are one of my favorite Lao snacks that I grew up eating at family and community celebrations. They exemplify Lao cuisine in a small bite with a sweet and spicy kick. It is eaten with fresh herbs, a sprinkle of fried garlic, a small piece of chili pepper, and wrapping the dumping in lettuce. For a gummy, spicy zing, it should be eaten right out of the steamer! You’ll find this snack eaten at many Lao New Year gatherings in April.
- 5 oz Mini tapioca balls
- 5 oz Ground pork
- 2 Tbsps Vegetable oil
- 2 Tbsps Minced shallots (about 2 whole shallots)
- 1 Tbsp Minced garlic
- 1/4 cup Finely chopped peanuts
- 2 Tbsps Finely minced turnips (from one medium turnip)
- 1/3 cup Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Fish sauce
- Pinch Ground black pepper
- Pinch MSG
- 1 bunch Cilantro
- 1 bunch Mint
- 1 head Butter lettuce
- 5 Garlic cloves, sliced and fried
- 1 Shallot, fried
- 2 Tbsps Sesame oil
- 1 Fresh Thai chili pepper
- Rinse the tapioca balls 3 times in warm water and let it sit for about 25 minutes so most of the water gets drained.
- Put the tapioca in a bowl and start kneading it like dough; cover and put it off to the side.
- Heat a pan with the oil on high; add the garlic and shallots and fry until lightly golden. Add in the minced pork in and cook until all the fat is rendered. Take the pork out of the pan.
- With the heat now on medium, add the sugar to the fat in the pan and, without stirring, allow it to caramelize to a light golden color. Add all the ingredients back in, including the turnips, peanuts, fish sauce, black pepper, and MSG, cooking on medium low heat for about 5 minutes until the mixture solidifies.
- Let the pork cool and then form spoonful balls. Take the tapioca dough and create a dumpling wrap and put the pork balls inside it.
- Prepare your steam basket and steam each dumpling for about 10 minutes.
- Garnish with toppings (below).
- Mince each of the herbs separately and set them aside.
- Thinly slice the garlic and shallots. Heat vegetable oil over medium high and fry the garlic for just under a minute, followed by the shallots. Set these aside on a paper towel to drain.