Friday, November 4, 2016

Mok Pa

Lao Mok Pa made with Tilapia. 
Mo Pa is a fragrant steamed fish made with fresh herbs like dill, lemongrass, kaffir leaves and garlic. It's a Lao dish that I grew up with, we ate it with sticky rice. Growing up I had Mok Pa made with catfish, but any white fish will do. I have used salmon, you can see in some of the pictures. Salmon needs less time to cook or it dries out, but it's good!


Lao Mok Pa ingredients.
Here are the ingredients I used for this batch of Mok Pa. I didn't have a fresh shallot, so I used freeze dried. I do prefer the fresh and think it's much better in this dish. Once you get this method down it's easy to adjust seasonings and herbs to your taste. You can also use different protein. Sliced chicken or pork is good. Some cooks will add a scrambled egg to the mixture, you can definitely do that. I just make this as I remember it. I do remember having Mok Gai (chicken) and there would be unlaid eggs in them from freshly butchered hens. It was good.

Lao Mok Pa herbs are pounded after being sliced thin to flavor the fish.
A mortar and pestle works very well to crush the herbs together with the rice. You can also use a blender. Whichever you prefer. The rice thickens the sauce and holds things together.

Assemble Mok Pa packets.
 Wrapping the Mok Pa is really easy. Place a clean piece of banana leaf on top of the aluminum foil piece. Bring up the top and bottom sides of the foil, hold it together with one hand. With your other hand fold one side of the packet in like you would when wrapping a gift. Tucking in the middle, then pinching to seal. Fold down the top to pieces once. Fold the remaining side of the packed to seal, then fold down the top one more to secure.

Cook in an Instant Pot or on the stove top in a steamer.

Mok Pa

2 pounds fish, white fish such as tilapia or catfish (about 900 grams)*
3 tablespoons Lao sticky rice, soaked in water overnight and drained (44 grams)
1 stalk of lemongrass, thinly sliced, dry tough outer leaves removed (23 grams)
1 small shallot chopped (about 30 grams)
2 cloves garlic, peeled (7 grams)
1-5 Thai Bird chilies (Optional)
2 tablespoons water (30 grams)
10-12 Kaffir lime leaves, sliced thinly (3 grams)
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce (15-30 grams)**
1 heaping tablespoon chopped green onion (4 grams)
1 cup fresh dill, not packed (20 grams)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, not packed (10 grams)
2 cups quartered Thai eggplant (optional)
1 Banana leaf, washed well and cut into 4 inch pieces***
6-8 Thai Chilies, optional
Aluminum foil
  1. Cut pieces of fish into approximately 1x2 inch pieces and put them into a large bowl.
  2. Put the rice, lemongrass, shallot, garlic, and Thai bird chili into a mortar. Crush with the pestle until a paste is formed. 
  3. Add water to the paste and stir.
  4. Pour rice mixture over the fish.
  5. Cut the cilantro and dill into about 1 inch pieces, just a rough chop.
  6. Add Kaffir leaves, fish sauce, green onion, dill, cilantro, and Thai eggplant to the fish.
  7. Stir well to combine.
  8. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.
  9. To wrap the fish take a 11x11 inch piece of aluminum foil and place a piece of banana leaf on top.
  10. Stir the fish to coat with seasonings and add a scoop to the middle of the banana leaf. The banana leave will not cover all of the fish, it just lines the foil from under to impart flavor.
  11. Top the fish with one Thai chili if desired.
  12. To fold the Mok Pa use one of two methods listed below.
  13. Continue making packets until you run out of fish. Depending on size of packet you'll have 6-8.
  14. Steam the fish packets for 45-60 minutes.
* If steaming in an Instant Pot, place the packets on a trivet or in a steamer basket with one cup of water underneath. Press the MANUAL button on High for 10- 15 minutes until cooked through. 

Folding the foil packets:
  • Bring the top and bottom of the foil up to form a packet, and roll the open ends down to seal. Take the open ends of the foil and roll each end up to seal. This doesn't have to be tight, but each packet should be sealed.
  • Place a clean piece of banana leaf on top of the aluminum foil piece. Bring up the top and bottom sides of the foil, hold it together with one hand. With your other hand fold one side of the packet in like you would when wrapping a gift. Tucking in the middle, then pinching to seal. Fold down the top to pieces once. Fold the remaining side of the packed to seal, then fold down the top one more to secure.
*Catfish is pretty traditional, I like to use a white fish like Tilapia. I also prefer boneless. If you you are using whole fish, bone in but cut up you can soak it for 30 minutes in cool water with a few tablespoons of baking soda. Drain and rinse well.
* Chicken can also be used, I like thighs, again, I like boneless skinless for this.
** Use fish sauce according to your taste, or omit and add a little salt. I do salt for my husband.
*** You can find banana leaves in Asian and Latin markets. Wash them well, even if frozen. If you can't find them, just wrap this in foil.

Freezer Tip: Kaffir leaves and Lemongrass stalks freeze well. Just wash, dry well and put them in a freezer bag or container.

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