Monday, February 13, 2012

Jeaw Mak Len (Lao Tomato Sauce)

 I love this sauce/Jeaw. Jeaw Mak Len literally means "sauce, tomato". It's fragrant, spicy, fresh. Perfect with meats, eggs, steamed vegetables. On a sandwich. Really! 
It's so easy to make and so very good. It's a thick, almost chutney. It isn't for ladling over pasta or rice. Used to dip with rice or steamed vegetables, it is a condiment. But I won't lie, I spooned it over a steak the other day.

Often Lao meals will have items like (of course there are so many more dishes)-
Khao/Kow Neo, a sticky rice you eat with your hands. Bags of this rice will say fragrant sweet rice. 
"Ping" - or grilled foods, like whole fish, chicken. 
Sien Hang- literally, "meat, dried". Dried beef- a jerky that is cooked after being marinated and left out to dry.  
Steamed vegetables.
Herbs are served fresh, along side a meal.
and usually there is Jeaw, some sort of chutney or dipping sauce.


Food is mostly eaten with hands, not chopsticks, family style. I love Lao food, perhaps I'm biased, perhaps it's the memories those foods hold for me. But there's nothing like a good Lao meal.

GPAC Jeaw Mak Len (Lao Tomato sauce)
5-6 plum tomatoes
1-2 shallots (or fried shallots in a pinch)
3-4 cloves garlic
1-2 jalapenos, or use Thai bird chilies
Nam pla/Nam ba- Fish sauce (Nam pla is what Thai call fish sauce, Laotioans call it Nam ba or "water, fish- water of fish", and Nuc mam is Vietnamese.)
Lime juice
1/2 ish teaspoon sugar- you don't need a lot!
2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

Wash the produce. Take the tomatoes and half or quarter them. cut the shallot in half. Cut the jalapenos, seed them if desired. Place them on a broiler pan. Broil on high until fragrant. Turning once or twice. You want some nice charred parts.You can do this on the grill also.
Once charred, peel the garlic and shallots. Take the everything and pound it in a motor and pestle. I've also pulsed it in a food processor too. You don't want a puree, leave some chunks. 
I used some onion because I didn't have fresh shallots, I also added fried shallots. So I added a tiny bit of oil to my pot to bring out the fragrance in the fried shallots.


Once the tomato mixture is processed put it in a small pot. Heat it until the liquid is evaporated and you have a thick sauce. Remove from heat. *You don't have to do this, I just like my Jeaw mak Len thick, I am not sure my mom does this. There is a picture of a more saucy batch below *
Once cooled, season to taste with sugar, lime juice and  nam pla/ba- I LOVE Red Boat. It is by far my favorite fish sauce. I can finally get it locally! And there's no sugar in it!
 Stir in the cilantro and serve!
Below is a batch I made with fresh shallots, 3 jalapenos, and a spin in the blender.
I find that it's easier to blend up all the garlic, shallots and jalapenos/chilies first. Then add the tomatoes so you don't end up with a smoothie.
 MMM. Fragrant.



Not as thick, before adding cilantro. NOM NOM.
Make it Primal/Paleo- leave out the sugar. 

GPAC Jeaw Mak Len (Lao Tomato sauce)
5-6 plum tomatoes
1-2 shallots (or fried shallots in a pinch)
3-4 cloves garlic
1-2 jalapenos, or use Thai bird chilies
Nam pla/Nam ba- Fish sauce (Nam pla is what Thai call fish sauce, Laotioans call it Nam ba or "water, fish- water of fish", and Nuc mam is Vietnamese.)
Lime juice
1/2 ish teaspoon sugar- you don't need a lot!
2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro


  1. Wash the produce. 
  2. Take the tomatoes and half or quarter them. 
  3. Cut the shallot in half. 
  4. Cut the jalapenos, seed them if desired. 
  5. Place them on a broiler pan. 
  6. Broil on high until fragrant. Turning once or twice. You want some nice charred parts.You can do this on the grill also.
  7. Once charred, peel the garlic and shallots. 
  8. Take everything and pound it in a motor and pestle. I've also pulsed it in a food processor too.
  9. You don't want a puree, leave some chunks. 
  10. Stir in the cilantro and serve!
Make it Primal/Paleo- leave out the sugar.

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